Scrap Heaven is exactly the kind of title that you often see attached to the sorts of horribly angsty indy movies that this one almost is. While the movie certainly goes downhill after its very nifty opening act, it’s above average for what it is.
Singo (Ryo Case) is a meek, disenchanted cop who fantasises about heroism as he drives his desk. One day he finds himself on a bus with a hyperactive and mischievous toilet cleaner, Tetsu (Jô Odagiri), a sullen pharmacist, Saki (Chiaki Kuriyama), and a gun-toting businessman on the edge of a nervous breakdown. By the end of the short but tense standoff, Tetsu has been non-fatally shot, Saki has lost an eye (sort of) and the businessman has committed suicide. Singo’s guilt over his failure to protect the others in this situation eventually leads he and Tetsu into a strange partnership which can only really be described as a revenge-for-hire business.
The potential for fun, high-concept capering that the premise suggests isn’t fully realised though, because this movie has more deep and meaningful things on its mind. This is, in my opinion, a bit of a pity. When Saki comes inevitably back into the picture as a potential client/antagonist/love interest the humour disappears and the movie becomes one of those disaffected youth stories that are generally among my least favourite. That said, it’s never boring to watch; direction is pacy and forceful, and the performances are all very fine.
Having complained about the movie’s serious intentions, I’m now going to be a hypocrite and contradict myself, at least with respect to one particular theme. Suicide, attitudes toward suicide and reactions to it permeate the entire film, suggesting that perhaps the movie is trying to tackle the touchy subject of modern Japanese society’s changing view of suicide. Admirable, but it never really extends beyond vague motif, and seeming like you’re about to say something isn’t as good as actually saying something. Hence this is a curiously uneven movie that could be improved both by being a bit less serious, and a bit more.