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REVIEW | Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime

Elize Matsunaga REVIEW

Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime (Elize Matsunaga: Era Uma Vez Um Crime) is a Brazilian true crime documentary miniseries on Netflix. The four-part series focuses on Elize Matsunaga, who was convicted of shooting and dismembering her ultra-rich husband, Marcos Matsunaga.

The series features the first and only media interview Elize agreed to, so she could tell her version of the story, just for her daughter. Elize is out on her first one-week release. Apparently, in Brazil, once you serve long enough, you get out of jail for a week, five times a year, as a treat.

Initially, you’re led to believe that this may have been a case of self-defence. That gets the death knell when you realize Elize chopped the guy up and smuggled him out of the apartment in suitcases, then discarded him along the road like garbage.

Elize Matsunaga REVIEW

The documentary proceeds to build Elize’s story, to show where she comes from, so that maybe the viewer develops some sort of sympathy. Elize grew up in a rural, poor area, and was abused as a child. She runs away to Sao Paulo and does what most poor girls do when they go to the big city: she becomes an escort. As an escort, she meets Marcos, and they fall in love. There’s just a little hitch, Marcos happens to be married, and stays married for two years before he gets around to divorcing wife 1 in order to marry Elize. The formerly poor girl then begins living like a princess, and all her dreams come true. However, Marcos hasn’t exactly reformed himself as a monogamous partner. Elize plans on leaving him, but then after doing various rounds of IVF, starting prior to her knowledge of his cheating, she becomes pregnant. Because of this, she decides to stay. Unsurprisingly, the cycle of Marcos falling in love with an escort occurs again, and now he wants to leave Elize for his new escort. It becomes clear at this point that self-defence was a convenient excuse for what occurred. Elize didn’t want to give up the plush life, or her daughter.

Elize Matsunaga REVIEW

Elize is not a sympathetic character, and she’s pretty scary. She doesn’t show any remorse, and her rationalization of her actions is disturbing. I do believe in self-defence stories to a point, but as soon as someone chops up another person, or dumps the body, I stop believing them. She’s also delusional if she thinks Marcos’ family will ever let her see or have contact with her daughter.

This is the second Netflix true-crime documentary that they’ve sourced from another country, released under the ‘Netflix’ banner, and made the default language English dubbed over another language. Dubbing over the Brazilian Portuguese, in this case, did not work for me, the volume difference between the two languages was off, and hearing the Portuguese behind the English was irritating and distracting.

The story itself was interesting, and I think having the perpetrator’s first interview was special. I think the only reason I kept watching was because the woman was so terrifying. I think the length could have been shorter, it was a little too dragged out. I think that using more of Marcos’ family members would have created a well-rounded documentary, but since this was ‘Elize’s Story’, I can see why they didn’t contribute.

Elize Matsunaga: Once Upon a Crime (2021) Documentary, Biography, Crime, Mystery | 197min | July 8, 2021 (Brazil) 5.8
Stars: José Carlos Cosenzo, Luiz Flávio D'Urso, Mauro DiasSummary: The crime shocked Brazil: Elize Matsunaga shot and dismembered her rich husband. Featuring her first interview, this docuseries dives deep into the case.

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Erika Johnson
I'm a Data Analyst, from the land of Matthew McConaughey. I'm an avid movie-goer and love seeing films in theaters. My most recent favorite films are Good Time, Only Lovers Left Alive, TENET, and England is Mine. When I'm not at the movies, I'm either reading or watching obscene amount of true crime and historical documentaries.