The Third Murder ★★★

A harsh and largely unwelcome change of pace from Japan’s greatest living humanist filmmaker, “The Third Murder” finds Hirokazu Kore-eda abandoning the warmth of his recent family dramas (“Still Walking,” “After the Storm”) in favor of an ice-cold legal thriller that pedagogically dismantles the death penalty. It begins in a cold ditch on a dark night, as a man named Misumi (the great Kôji Yakusho) conks his boss on the back of the head and lights his body on fire. The killer is all too happy to confess that he committed the crime, but when he meets his defense team — a scraggly trio led by a suave lawyer named Shigemori (“Like Father, Like Son” actor Masaharu Fukuyama) — he starts to change his story.

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