Double Makes Trouble in Darkly Fun 'Doppelganger'; 'Ray' Gets DVD Debut

Article excerpt

Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES

What starts as a straightforward supernatural chiller gradually morphs into dark comedy in director and co-writer Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Doppelganger, an ingenious modern-day variation on "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." It's new from Tartan Video ($24.95, tartanfilmsusa.com) and it's our ...

DVD pick of the week

Our story begins on a grim note when the slacker brother of our eventual heroine, Yuka (Hiromi Nagasaku), commits suicide after sighting his double or "doppelganger."

The focus next shifts to Yuka's acquaintance Hayasaki (Koji Yakusho), a top-flight medical robotics researcher who, much to his frustration, is in a creative slump that slows his progress on a sophisticated home care wheelchair.

It's at that point that Hayasaki's own obnoxious doppelganger (also played by Mr. Yakusho) enters the picture, determined to "right" the problems of his resistant "twin" by any means necessary.

Soon Yuka is caught between the real Hayasaki and his increasingly fractious doppelganger, who, much like Robert Louis Stevenson's famous schizoid character(s), represent cautious superego and amoral id, respectively.

Secret schemes involving Hayasaki's thuglike new assistant Kimishima (Yusuke Santamaria) and resentful former collaborator Murakami (Akira Emoto) further complicate the situation as the reel rolls on and the action grows increasingly slapstick. (There's even a comic homage to "Raiders of the Lost Ark.")

Mr. Yakusho turns in wonderful work as both his repressed bitter and blithe badder halves, while Mr. Kurosawa, late of the twisty serial-killer thriller "Cure," hits just the right balance between menace and humor. Bonuses include a revealing interview with the insightful auteur and a "making of" featurette.

More from Asia

Elsewhere in the Asian import arena, Home Vision Cinema introduces two intriguing vintage Yakuza (Japanese organized crime) capers from the late Japanese cult director Kinji Fukasaku, Fall Guy and Sympathy for the Underdog ($24.95 each).

The Criterion Collection debuts Seijun Suzuki's inventive, energetic 1963 gangster yarn Youth of the Beast ($29.95).

Tele-video

Hit sitcoms old and new dominate the week's TV-on-DVD slate. Paramount Home Entertainment leads the way with no fewer than five farcical box sets: Cheers: The Complete Fourth Season, Frasier: The Complete Fourth Season and Taxi: The Complete Second Season (all four-disc, $38.99 each), along with I Love Lucy: The Complete Third Season (five-disc, $54.99) and Charmed: The Complete First Season (six-disc, $49.99).

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment weighs in with Married ... With Children: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $39.95) and Soap: The Complete Third Season (three-disc, $29.95).

Good old boys Tom Wopat and John Schneider rev into high gear in the extras-enhanced The Dukes of Hazzard: The Complete Second Season (Warner Home Video, four-disc, $38.99) while 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment bows the offbeat Wonderfalls: The Complete Viewer Collection (three-disc, $39. …