3 June 2003 | mw_director
A subtle and powerful tale of how violence begets violence
Serpent's Path is one of two movies on the same subject--revenge--Kurosawa shot back to back; the other is Eyes of the Spider. This film deals with two men, one a former low-level yakuza member obsessed with avenging the murder of his young daughter, and the other, a deceptively mild-mannered math professor who is helping the grieving father for reasons that are at first unclear.
As he often does, Kurosawa uses a conventional genre (here, the revenge film) as a way to explore the hidden darker side of human nature. In Serpent's Path, the theme is that once one has given oneself over to the most base instincts one has, such as violence and vengefulness, there is no crossing back. And that this is a risk for everyone, even, as we find, an "average guy" like the professor. His real motives provide the movie with its chilling finale. (But the movie is not all dour seriousness; Kurosawa works in much black humor as well, as in the golf-course abduction scene.) In all, a first-rate thriller worthy of David Fincher.