Review: The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill (NYAFF 2021)

by Matthew Edward Hawkins

The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill is a sequel to, as you may have guessed, 2019′s The Fable, which was part of NYAFF 2019. A film that I tried to watch but couldn’t get past the first 15 or so minutes; I simply found it too boring. But while in Tokyo later that year, I noticed the sizable presence its home video release had and began to wonder if I should give it another shot. An idea that, truth be told, escaped my mind… but along comes the sequel, which this year’s program states is a standalone affair, so I figured why the hell not?

For starters: I did finish the whole film, as you may have also guessed; Sato, aka The Fable, is a rather quirky assassin that’s legendary lethal and also trying to keep a low profile, by maintaining a 9-5 jobby job as a delivery person at a graphic design firm (I think; am assuming it’s clearer if you saw the first movie). He also has a sister, or at least that’s her cover, cuz she appears to be another mercenary trying to stay out of sight (again, this isn’t really explained, so I do believe knowledge of Fable 1 is somewhat necessary). The conflict comes in the form of Utsubo, a master manipulator whose cover is a non-profit to help children, but it’s a front for extorting money from parents of the wayward. The group includes Hinako, a young wheelchair bound woman that essentially serves as said shady org’s mascot, though she’s largely unaware of how vile Utsubo truly is. Anyhow, Sato comes across Hinako in the park, trying to regain the ability to walk; he tries to offer moral support, without interrupting her training; Hinako mostly finds him kinda annoying, even a tad bit stalker-ish, and even though Sato means well, she’s not wrong either.

As it turns out, Utsubo is the only target of The Fable from years ago that got away, but the even crazier coincidence is how the reason behind Hinako’s disability is because she became injured in the middle of Sato murdering her pimp. Eventually Etsuji, one of Sato’s co-worker at the design firm, gets caught up in one of Utsubo’s schemes, so it’s up to The Fable to not only rescue him but Hinako as well. One of the things I discovered while doing research (aside from how Etsuji’s antics, which results him in becoming a target of Utsubo’s, is yet another thing established in Fable 1, so once more this is hardly a standalone film) is how the previous tale was more about a fish out of water and this one has more of an emphasis on the action. And while there’s not a ton of it, it was enough to keep me interested, because when there is action on screen, it’s pretty damn amazing. Though The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill also waves a massive red flag for me, in its portrayal of the disabled. For the record, it’s an aspect that no other review, far as I’ve seen, has touched upon.

As the married partner of someone with mobility issues IRL, it’s hard for me to recommend this movie, even if the action set piece near the end is one of the most impressive spectacles in recent memory. It’s legitimately a bar setting achievement. Yet it’s also difficult recommending this sequel to those who haven’t seen its predecessor. At the same time, I will admit to finding various aspects, primarily Junichi Okada’s portrayal of The Fable himself, quite endearing. Enough to finally motivate me to give the first movie a second chance; as you can tell, I’m conflicted about this one. At any rate, The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill is being screened on Sunday August 15, 3:00pm, at the SVA Theatre; you can find the link to purchase a ticket here

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