Following the smash success last year of Bayside Shakedown comes Masato Harada's Jubaku (Spellbound), with a theme that is nothing less than the iron triangle of business, bureaucracy and underworld gangs which have dominated the history of postwar Japan. With a plot that reads like a newspaper investigative series, the film risks being flattened into the cinematic equivalent of good, grey journalese. However Harada has injected a visual dynamism and narrative pace that is very Hollywood, while respecting the integrity of a story that is, in its complexity and ambiguity, very Japanese. Also, while being unsparing and unsentimental in its portrayal of institutional crime and corruption, Jubaku presents a group portrait considerably more attractive that the usual image of Japanese businessmen as nerdy drones.
When a major bank is caught paying off a corporate extortionist, the media and prosecutors begin to dig, breaking open a money-and-favours scandal that threatens to rock the entire structure of business and government to its core. While the bank's top executives continue to vacillate, a quartet of middle-management reformers, led by straight-arrow Kitano (Koji Yakusho), decide to stage a boardroom coup and install a new, clean management team. With the aid of a hotshot news anchor (Miho Wada) and a hard-nosed prosecutor (Kenichi Endo), heads begin to roll.