Rana and Nozomi couldn’t be more different coming from different backgrounds with antagonizing behaviors. The two aspiring actresses live in a cozy two-bedroom apartment hosted by the same production company that has them vying for the same lead role in an upcoming feature film. The role could jumpstart either of their careers and, internally, Rana and Nozomi believe the other isn’t good enough despite their different approaches in as city girl Rana uses her famine ways and laxer attitude to slut her way up to the top while the country-born Nozomi diligently studies the dialogue and the role to impress beyond her days as a parent-encouraged elementary stage actor. When tensions rise through apartment sharing irksome nuisances and a man’s affections put an even more divisive wedge in the already gaping hole between them, Rana and Nozomi reach a breaking point and a violent melee of at each other’s throats ensues.
From my personal experience, the only roommate I’ve ever had was my wife during our engagement period and I can tell you that living with someone else – someone’s quirks, someone’s habits, and someone’s tastes – can be utterly earthshattering and explosive in what seems like every little pampered or established, taken for granted role you had living without a roommate is acutely upended and tossed into apocalyptic chaos. Or, at least, that’s how it feels, right? The sentiment is exactly perfectly and with killer instinct in Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s written-and-directed fight!-fight!-fight! film “2LDK.” The 2003 Japanese movie helmed by the “12 Suicidal Teens” Tsutsumi co-wrote the script with Yuiki Miura, who of the last six years penned episodes of the recent various “Ultraman” series. The 8-day shoot left no time to spare, leaving much of the cast and crew to shoot longer, sleepless nights, on “2LDK,” which in Japan shorthand describes the type of apartment – a 2-bedroom apartment with a Living room, Dining room, and Kitchen. “2DLK” is a production of Micott, Times in, and DUEL Film Partners and is produced by Kazuki Manabe and Susumu Nakazawa.
When the central plot revolves around two aspiring actresses cohabiting a single living space and, literally, fighting over every inch of space, also literal as well as figural, there’s no room for more cast or even extras. We’re first introduced to Eiko Koike (“Terra Farmers”) as Nozomi, a small province girl, reserved in manner, and extremely methodical to the point of obsessive. Koike perfectly pitches Nozomi’s quiet but strong behavior, yet still judgmental about a roommate from the total opposite spectrum in Rana. Played by Maho Nonami (“Scarecrow”), Rana’s a big city Tokyo girl with a jaded history. Blunt, sleazy, and inconsiderate of apartment-sharing etiquette, Rana knows how to push Nozomi’s buttons – hard and on purpose with a innocent smile. The story dives into differentiating Nozomi and Rana with an immediate internalizing of trash talking voiced over for the audience to see how Rana thinks Nozomi wearing high school gym clothes is hanging on to her humble origins whereas Nozomi itemizes every piece of Rana’s expensive accessories with a dollar amount. Tensions slowly build from there and the actresses do a phenomenal slow burn into madness where the pot lid rockets to the sky when irritations hit the boing point summit. Before you know it, electric-corded chainsaws are being wielded, spray cleaner bottoms are being spritzed into eyeballs, and eggs and toilet lids are being cracked over heads.
“2LDK” is compact carnage, relatable dark fantasies of every roommate with a grudge against something thought their roomie did incorrectly or inconsiderately over and over again. Other factors play into the two women’s meltdowns that provided fuel to the flame the burns with them in. Rana struggles with the indirect suicidal death of a mother and child during her affair with the woman’s husband. Nozomi bears the burden of forcedly shepherd to be the best whether to her studies or acting. Not to forget to mention that both are in the running to be handpicked for a feature film role by the production company and there’s a man in the mix as an exploited chip against the other adoring roommate just to stick that knife into the side and twist for a little extra gut-wrenching spite. Tsutsumi builds the seething hate, the tension, and the momentum that all comes crashing down in a Tsutsumi tsunami of cat fighting violence, weaponizing every inch of that small apartment from their individual bedrooms to the kitchen as a battleground. Tsutsumi smartly doesn’t make “2LDK” a story about good versus evil as there are hardly any instances where the audiences will feel Rana nor Nozomi are in the wrong and wish their demise by virtuous-righteous other. The bout is equally matched at their core and in scrappy ability to pick up whatever is lying around as a deadly weapon.
Unearthed Films brings this one-on-one battle royale to an all-new Blu-ray release in association with Duel Film Partners and distributed by MVD Visual. The perfectly paced and timed 70-minute film is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 of AVC encoded 1080p high-definition transfer. Image appearance is quite similar to another Unearthed Films Blu-ray release in “Tokyo Decadence” with a hefty grain product that be very discernible in blacker/darker areas of the image, suggesting maybe a celluloid film gauge that offer a pleasantly filmic presentation instead of a white-glove and sleekly fabricated digital video. While colors don’t exactly pop, the texture is there surrounding skin pores and facial imperfections that shine in the details. Unearthed Films presents two options with a Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and a 2.0 PCM stereo. The multi-channel has a tad trouble discerning the inner voice overs between the two woman and never quite isolating their individual dialogues. Some food for thought in case you decide to not pay attention to the movie and look at your phone as the dialogue courses through. Some of the action came off with a bit of an echo but the overall soundtrack is robust with a clean and clear dialogue that comes with option English subtitles. Extras include a commentary with actresses Maho Nnami and Eiko Koike with subtitles, a making of “2DLK,” interviews from the Tokyo International fantastic Film Festival, interviews from the premiere screening, production briefs on the duel between the roomies, a video message for theater audiences, interviews from the screening at Kudan Kaikan, and a photo still gallery. Duel epitomizes “2LDK” exactly and only the Japanese know how to formulate a 70-minute comedy-action-thriller of two going toe-to-toe to the death.