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Pyrokinesis
cast: Akiko Yada, Hideaki Ito, Ryuji Harada, Masami Nagasawa, and Yu Yoshizawa

director: Shusuke Kaneko

115 minutes (15) 2000
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Eastern Cult Cinema DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Christopher Geary
As the title makes clear, this Japanese movie is about psychic arson - the mental power to start fires. It features the same genre concept as Mark L. Lester's rather vacuous science fictional espionage thriller Firestarter (1984), but Pyrokinesis (aka: Kurosufaiâ) is superior in every way to the American product (based on a book by Stephen King at a time when Hollywood was churning out indifferent King adaptations at the rate of two or three a year), and Shusuke Kaneko (best known in the West for his contribution to 1994's anthology Necronomicon, and the 1990s' Gamera movies) succeeds in making this effective as both a dark urban thriller and as powerful SF-horror drama.
   Although she works in a busy office, Junko (Akiko Yada) has an isolated and friendless life at home. She avoids contact with colleagues because of the secret and unstable power that haunts her dreams, and causes her to boil a swimming pool dry while struggling to control her hazardous emotional state. When Junko attends a party, befriends the young sister of her co-worker Kazuki (Hideaki Ito, from Princess Blade), and a sadistic gang of teenagers kill the girl, Junko decides to use her fiery ability to avenge her friend's murder. But open-minded detectives begin to suspect Junko is somehow responsible for the spontaneous combustion of the punk gangsters, and there's a mystery man in town with extraordinary ESP and mind control powers who may be connected to a corrupt high ranking police officer...
   Imaginative, engagingly thoughtful, ultimately rewarding viewing, Pyrokinesis (alternate title: Cross Fire, geddit?) has excellent intrigues and fine performances to match the special effects and spectacular superhero action, and is perhaps best described as X-Men meets The X-Files. This is a compelling fantasy of vengeance that's unafraid to examine in full the motivations and human failings of its quasi-comicbook heroine, and the moral complacency of people in authority concerned more with politicking and the embarrassment of losing face, than righting wrongs or simply doing their job proficiently.
   Don't let its foreign origin and subtitled format put you off. Pyrokinesis is one of the best plain-clothes superhero movies yet produced. If you enjoyed such psi-powered thrillers as The Fury (1978), any of the series of Scanners (1980) films, or Rockne S. O'Bannon's Fear (1990), this is what you've been waiting for.
   DVD extras: biographies and filmographies, portrait and stills galleries, video covers for Warrior label titles.
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