If there’s one thing that serves as inviting to watch a recent series, its getting to screen that show’s feature film continuation, which is nifty little way to truly end a series drama on a high note. To that end, it definitely depends on how those behind the scenes attempt to weave together the connecting stories. Arguably, it might even lead to the notion that said film can even stand on its own – a notion that Toya Sato’s Caution: Hazardous Wife: The Movie certainly puts to the test in segueing from the cliffhanger end of the titular NTV drama starring Haruka Ayase (Honnouji Hotel, Ichi) and Hidetoshi Nishijima (Silent Night, Mozu franchise) in reprisals of their respective roles.
There’s a gradual tone shift as the film commences with an opening action sequence before laying into the moment Nami (Ayase) awakens from a surrealistic dream. When the film starts, we meet Nami in a series of concurrent story moments with flashbacks, from the moment she awakens in a state of amnesia and is held in the loving arms of her husband, Yuki (Nishijima), to her day-to-day routines as a housewife and homemaker, who often recurs visits to her psychiatrist to try and find answers that can possibly help explain her mental and emotional state.
Nami is more stoic than anything, but she’s mostly resigned to her status an idyllic wife with aspirations of a family, and even one day owning her own cafè with Yuki, who she believes is still a math teacher. Living in the rural seaside town of Tamami, however, things are soon bound to change when big business settles in, backed by a firm that intends to finance the construction of a massive research lab to conduct experiments of a subterranian deposit of underwater materials. Led by the duplicitous Mr. Yokoo (Minosuke), the campaign’s low key not-so-nice approach about it has already seen the disappearance of a few people causing ripples in the process, with Yokoo entrenching himself with local business owners and even getting in bed with corrupt law enforcement, leaving a hired gang of hooligans to covertly assault the town Mayor’s opposition who’s been the most vocal against the lab’s construction.
The residual result of that violence soon gets hold of Nami in one of several instances, just as she’s in a stage of her life where her memories are slowly resurfacing, no matter how much she reaffirms the sincerity and trust of her husband, Yuki. Little does she know that Yuki, the dilligent public security agent he is, is playing a much different role with the marriage serving as an cover to assist his operation to infiltrate Yokoo’s firm and their dealings. Not for nothing, however, as it’s easily discernible that Yuki seems to have great care and compassion for Nami, despite the love not being as genuine as the two would like to believe. The good news is that when Nami doubts herself, Yuki doesn’t gaslight her, although between his assignment, his feelings for Nami, and possibly knowing it’s only a matter of time before her memories return in full, the real question lies in just how strong their love will be when Nami’s past finally catches up to her and all the guns are pointed at them.
More suitable references for Western audiences to help best describe Caution, Hazardous Wife: The Movie, would be somewhere along the lines of A Long Kiss Goodnight by way of Mr. & Mrs. Smith and True Lies, but with long walks on the beach in place of the tango. Screenwriter Yukiko Manabe’s script is heavily focused on the expositional and developmental progressions of Nami’s personal growth and recovery, whilst exploring the interwoven drama between Yokoo’s shady dealings, and the mysterious assults on Mayoral candidate Mr. Igarashi and his campaign members. We meet an amply interesting character name Juri (Kenshi Okada), to whom Nami takes a liking as he runs a cafè, in addition to applying a more stealthy set of skills that spicens things up a bit midway in the film.
It’s fun watching these characters grow and evolve with each other, even if at times this film feels like we all should have seen the original series already (thankfully the show itself is actually available through Amazon Prime Video’s J-Edge Channel for folks in North America as of this article). The romance may be questionable, but our you’ll definitely get behind our leading pair throughout their travails as the story moves forward, and while fight scenery isn’t wall-to-wall, the action design in this film is the absolute sweet stuff, coordinated by Masaaki Kurita who served under action director Yuji Shimomura for Shinsuke Sato’s live-action manga adaptation, Bleach (2018). Performances by both Ayase and Nishijima are echt in their delivery, in addition to, and especially, Ayase’s scenes with actor Sergei Vlasaov.
Fans of the series might also take a liking to the use of its original theme song, which even comes well packaged by the final half hour when the big brawl kicks off. With much more left to unravel for the film’s two hour duration, Sato’s latest feature film treatment of a television favorite may come with some caveats, but nonetheless, all are welcome. Just short of being a feminist rubric or a rehash of modern action cinema tropes or mere pulpy romance, Caution, Hazardous Wife: The Movie emancipates with a solid story that carries the legacy on for its television predecessor, doling out the espionage thrills with a dash of underdog heroics, a touch of allure that brings this love story to a healthy, fitting close.
Caution, Hazardous Wife: The Movie is part of the line-up for the 25 Fantasia International Film Festival which runs from now through August 25.