Unfair: The End (2015)
Nicholas Driscoll
May 16, 2016
Note: review may contain spoilers

Unfair: The End is bookended by lingering shots of star Ryoko Shinohara's backside in the shower, and I couldn't help but wonder if this was some kind of cheeky reference (pun intended) to the title. If so, that sense of humor does not carry over much into the actual film, a slick and moody cop thriller and presumably the last in a franchise which has jumped back and forth from the big to the small screen over the last few years. I haven't seen any of the previous films, but I caught The End on a recent flight and found it enjoyable on its own, though perhaps a bit clichéd.

The story: Natsumi Yukihira (Ryoko Shinohara) is a super-tough, super-cool cop fighting against a shady secret organization which is manipulating the police force and the government of Japan. Recently Yukihira picked up some incriminating evidence against said organization, but she has yet to decide how to use that evidence to bring down the shadowy villains given that she doesn't know who she can trust. When a computer nerd comes forward with additional evidence he has obtained through his awesome computer skillz, the goons are not far behind, and Yukihira has to stretch her police awesomeness to the limit in order to protect him, kick some hinder, and navigate the plaid tapestry of crosses and double-crosses to get to the truth of the matter—and The End of her longstanding mission of justice!

Despite not having seen the previous films in the series, Unfair: The End caught me up quite nicely with a quick recap at the beginning, and then the movie was off and running with nary a breath taken. Obviously viewers who are familiar with the characters will find the dirty laundry list of dark revelations more meaningful than I did, but the characters are mostly archetypes anyway, so everything is easy to follow and I never felt I was at an unfair disadvantage—yuk yuk. In fact, the plot was still pretty predictable even without tons of Unfair lore under my cap. Entertaining, yeah, but predictable.

Holding up the said plot and making it breathe, Ryoko Shinohara (more familiar to those in the west for her role as Momoko's mother in 2004's Kamikaze Girls) as Natsumi Yukihira prowls and scowls and bleeds cool as her black trench coat billows around her legs. She broods with the best of them, and her performance lives and dies on her. The main baddie (who I can't reveal here without spoilerage) isn't nearly as good, especially when he cackles like a moron when his evil plan is going well (he thinks). Koichi Sato also excels as the mysterious heavy, Michitaka Ichijo, with a facial expression so hard you could sharpen your kitchen knives on it.

Unfair: The End is not a revelation. The plot is the usual stuff, with so many backs stabbed there won't be many backs left by the end, and even upon minor reflection the knotted-up plot unravels a bit, and at the end I couldn't help but say, "Hey lady, why didn't you do that in the FIRST PLACE?!?!" Still, after all the scowling and the gunplay and the moody-broody narration settles down, a good time was had by me, and that's really all I wanted from this film.