Content Warning: The Fable contains themes of stalking and a scene of attempted rape.
The Fable is a Japanese crime drama/comedy streaming on Netflix and stars Jun’ichi Okada. There is a legendary killer in the Japanese underworld known only as The Fable. It is said there is no man he cannot kill in under six seconds. But after his latest assignment, his master commands him to take a year off. He is to move into a nearby city and live an ordinary life. And he is forbidden from killing anyone. This shouldn’t be a problem until he is drawn into a local gang war and must try to survive the experience while keeping his promise to his mentor.
At first, The Fable’s year-long break looks like it will be as simple as it sounds on paper. He even manages to let a couple of ruffians think they beat him up, just as any “ordinary man” would’ve been. That is until he runs into Misaki (Mizuki Yamamoto). As their friendship grows, Misaki accidentally catches the eye of a local gangster that wants to monetize her. So when she goes missing, Fable feels he must help her. But he has to find a way of doing so without breaking his promise.
I’ve run into a couple of instances lately where comedies try to incorporate plot points that are intrinsically not funny. Stalking, attempted rape, and other similar events don’t feel right when presented as part of a comical narrative. Combining moments that leave characters visibly traumatized and scarred with cheap laughs and awkward humor just feels disrespectful and gross. This is the big reason I couldn’t enjoy The Fable. The show tries to shift from a serious crime story to a goofy, fish-out-water comedy without any separation of the two. The attempt to meld these elements leaves the movie in an awkward and uncomfortable space. This is too bad, as there could’ve been some genuine gold in this film.
The film’s most robust feature is the lead character—the legendary Fable(Okada). Trained from childhood for nothing but killing, he is one of the deadliest men alive, yet he doesn’t know that people don’t eat the rind on a watermelon. The unending oddities the show marches out throughout its roughly two-hour run time, combined with Okada’s brilliant deadpan delivery of them, is perfect. One of the film’s best light comedic moments has to be when The Fable goes to get a job. The result is one of the most honest job interviews I’ve ever seen. It’s hilarious.
The cast beyond Fable and Misaki are primarily made up of over-the-top characters. From the tremendously awkward perv who works with Misaki to Fable’s would-be killers whose personalities feel like a combination of Heath Ledger and Cesar Romero’s Jokers. Virtually every supporting character takes their personality to such extremes that any claim of this as an “ordinary life” feels like nonsense. And all of this outlandish, over-the-top personality clashes horribly with the movie’s most serious moments.
The visual presentation of The Fable does some great work overall. The big fight sequences are skillfully shot in a uniquely manic way, and the visualization of how Fable processes these moments is striking and original.
So, when all is said and done, The Fable delivers a mixed bag of themes and energy that ultimately never meshes. Its over-the-top slapstick humor undercuts the heaviest moments in the movie, making them feel cheap and mishandled.
The Fable is streaming now on Netflix.
- Rating - 5/105/10
The Fable delivers a mixed bag of themes and energy that ultimately never meshes. Its over-the-top slapstick humor undercuts the heaviest moments in the movie, making them feel cheap and mishandled.