|Directed by||Kiyoshi Kurosawa|
|Produced by||Junyuki Shimoba
|Written by||Kiyoshi Kurosawa|
|Edited by||Kan Suzuki|
Kenichi Takabe (Koji Yakusho) is an emotionally repressed police detective with a mentally unstable wife. Takabe investigates a series of bizarre murders. Though each victim is killed in the same way, with a large "X" carved into their neck, the perpetrator is different each time. In every case the murderers are caught close to the scene of the crime, and although they readily confess to committing the crimes, they never have a substantial motive and cannot explain what drove them to kill.
Takabe, together with a psychologist named Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki), eventually determines that one man is the common thread among the murders, as each person he comes in contact with commits a killing shortly thereafter. The man, called Mamiya (Masato Hagiwara), appears to have extreme short-term memory loss; he seems constantly confused about what day it is, where he is, and what his name is. He claims to recall nothing of his past. The investigation comes to a block as Mamiya possesses no memories of his past and constantly counters Takabe's interrogation with evasive questions regarding Takabe's identity. This drives Takabe nearly insane as he gradually loses his initial calmness. The futility of the case starts to affect Takabe's psyche as he becomes more and more volatile, exploding into violent fits of anger from time to time.
After Takabe catches Mamiya, he searches the man's apartment and discovers that Mamiya used to be a student of psychology who studied mesmerism and hypnosis. Takabe comes to realize that Mamiya has no memory problems, and that he is instead a master of hypnosis, capable of planting criminal suggestions in strangers' minds by exposing them to repetitive sounds, the motion of water, or the flame of a lighter. Sakuma also finds a videotape of a mysterious man, speculated to be the originator of mesmerism, hypnotizing a woman by gesturing an "X" midair, and shows the video to Takabe at his house. After displaying the tape, Sakuma is shown to have unconsciously drawn an X on his wall, and starts to experience hallucinations of Takabe menacingly cornering him. Several days later, the police discover Sakuma's body in his home, and conclude that he commits suicide. Meanwhile, Mamiya is jailed and charged with incitement to murder.
Mamiya also finds Takabe fascinating, possibly because he cannot force Takabe to kill. Takabe does have visions of his wife (Anna Nakagawa) dead, however, and the more he studies Mamiya, the more Takabe feels that he might be losing his mind. He becomes more and more frustrated with his wife's helplessness and even expresses murderous intent towards her at one point. His wife's strange behavior and concerns about his own mental stability lead him to have her committed to a mental hospital.
When Mamiya escapes, killing a policeman and a doctor in the process, Takabe tracks him to a deserted building in the wilderness and shoots him. The film's final scenes, in which a waitress suddenly draws out a knife, ready to kill her supervisor after talking to Takabe, suggest that Takabe himself has become the master hypnotist, and that he is carrying on Mamiya's bizarre work.
- Koji Yakusho - Takabe
- Masato Hagiwara - Mamiya
- Tsuyoshi Ujiki - Sakuma
- Anna Nakagawa - Takabe's wife
- Yoriko Dōguchi - Dr. Akiko Miyajima
- Yukijirō Hotaru - Ichiro Kuwano
- Denden - Oida
- Ren Osugi - Fujiwara
- Masahiro Toda - Tōru Hanaoka
Tom Mes of Midnight Eye described the film as "a horror film in the purest sense of the word". Meanwhile, A. O. Scott of The New York Times noted that Kiyoshi Kurosawa "turns the thriller into a vehicle for gloomy social criticism." Scott Tobias of The A.V. Club said: "Kurosawa, a prolific genre stylist who specializes in low-key thrillers and horror films, undercuts the lurid material by keeping a chilly, almost clinical distance from the events and unfolding the story in elliptical pieces."