Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Staring: Yosuke Eguchi, Takao Osawa, Ryoko Hirosue, Eiji Okuda, Jun Kaname, Goi, Hashinosuké Nakamura
Rating: 3 / 5
Plot: Goemon Ishikawa (Eguchi) is a master thief happily robbing the rich retainers to give to the poor with his assistant Sasuke Sarutobi (Gori). His life is however soon thrown into turmoil when he steals a Pandora’s Box-type device from malevolent would-be-emperor, Hideyoshi Toyotomi (Okuda), unwittingly opening up a conspiracy that implicates the powerful official in the murder of Nobunaga Oda (Nakamura), Goemon’s mentor and uncle to love interest Chacha (Ryoko Hirosue).
Review: Kiriya’s debut feature “Casshern” (2004) was an insane slice of sci-fi madness, that not only blew my tiny little mind the first time I saw it, but also blended hyper kinetic action scenes with stunning design work. Still it was even more impressive in how it managed to flawlessly blend CGI and more traditional effects to the point were it didn’t feel like you were watching a film being presented in a CGI created world, but a one in which the edges of both the real world and the CGI one blend together effortlessly to create one mindblowing stage for which Kiriya used to create the fantastical landscapes and vast robot armies of the source anime and it's this same frenzied and fantastic style that he now brings to feudal Japan, with this historical bio of Japan’s answer to Robin Hood, the Ninja turned bandit hero Goemon, as Kiriya plays fast and loose with the mixture of fact, fiction and legend of the titular hero, to create another frantic and fast paced film, which hits the ground running and rarely lets up throughout it’s running time.
Goemon is almost the perfect hero for Kiriya to choose for a biopic, if only due to the lack of actual historic information which is actually known about the man, though Kiriya has really only used this to his advantage it would seem, while setting out with the intension of making him almost a fantastical character, as he captures the pop samurai style of “Azumi” (2003), while a roguish performance from Eguchi, also gives the character under shades of Lupin the Third from “Castle of Cagliostro” (1979), making him not only a rebel, but also pretty handy in a fight, as highlighted through the numerous fight scenes, with Kiriya shooting these in the same glossy style as the rest of the film, which trades historical accuracy for pop video style, meaning that we are treated to such surreal moments such as a group of prostitutes performing a hip hop style influenced dance sequence, which for those of you wanting a truly accurate picture might find a little off putting, but then this music video style is hardly surprising when you consider that this was the provin g grounds, were Kiriya, like so many equally visual directors such as David Fincher and Spike Jonze, started out his directing career before moving into directing films and like those directors Kiriya has continued to bring that same creativity and glossy style to his films.
The plot is anything but straightforward, especially when Kiriya has chosen to pepper it with so many flashbacks, it often become hard to quite follow how everything links together especially when trying to take in how the numerous characters caught up in the main conspiracy of the story link together and something that is not especially helped by the addition of a clumsy love triangle, which only further adds to the confusion and it’s a similar problem to the one which dogged Kiriya’s debut “Casshern” which was also dogged by the same confusing style of plotting, as you find yourself being thrown from one stunning sequence to the next and though the ride is certainly enjoyable and without a doubt gorgeous to look at, you can’t help but wish that he had instead dedicated alittle more time to the construction of the story, rather than the best way to put each of these highly visual ideas on the screen, much like the countless themes which he attempts to cover with the same film with Romance, friendship, betrayal, political intrigue and epic battles just a handful of the ideas he attempts to lock into place, only generally adding further to the ongoing confusion.
The action scenes are all equally as exciting and in some case more so than what Kiriya attempted with his debut, as ninjas fly across the rooftops as buildings crumble around them, with Goemon seemingly having more gadgets than James Bond, including his multifunctional chain, while proving himself just as handy with a samurai sword in any of the numerous sword fights featured throughout and usually ending in a blood being splattered across faces and limbs being hacked off in the process, but other than a public execution, there is nothing too overly shocking here. The only problem that I did find, was that in certain sequences, that the CGI and real worlds seems to loose the gloss which blended them so seamlessly together, which could be down largely to lack of funds to support some of the more grander of Kiriya’s idea throughout, though even these scenes look great, even if their noticeable sub par graphic do pull you out of the film slightly.
While it might seem more style than substance, this film still makes for a fun piece of escapism and while being slightly less bewildering than Kiriya’s debut feature, it still suffers from pockets of confusion if mainly due to the sheer catalogue of colourful characters and intriguing plot twists and it could no doubt have benefited from tighter editing but despite these flaws it is still an exciting and great looking film and certainly worth giving a look, especially for fans of Kiriya’s debut which certainly has gained a decent sized following since it’s release and no doubt those same fans will lap this up too.
Friday, 17 December 2010