Friday, July 19, 2013

The Fantasia Daily, 2013.01 (18 July 2013): Shield of Straw

The Imperial Exterior

Welcome to the Cinema Imperial, where I'll be spending much of the next three weeks. I hope to get some pictures of the inside added soon, because it is really a nice looking place to see a movie - the comfy seats, especially compared to what we've dealt with in Hall, help immensely too.

Getting up here went shockingly smoothly this year - I arrived at South Station just in time to catch my bus at 7am, and was in fact quite surprised when I got to White River Junction and it wasn't time to buy some lunch at McDonald's, like it was in previous years when I messed up and had to take the 9:30am bus. Being on time messes me up, apparently. I then found my sublet, got things set up, and headed down to Concordia to pick up my media pass. I'll be taking the Metro for that trip in the future; it's not quite so crazy hot here as it was in Boston, but I wound up sweating a lot. I managed to get the last ticket for Shield of Straw when I made it to the Imperial - as in, if I had a date, I'd be out of luck. Yay being single!

I didn't get to see The Conjuring - that was good and sold out - but I was ready to drop when I got back to the apartment anyway.

Sorry for the brevity here, but Drug War starts in a little more than a half hour, and I see things being crowded. If you're here and spot the guy in cargo shorts, a press pass, and a Red Sox t-shirt (large "B" on front, socks on back) at Drug War or Lesson of the Evil, say hi!

Wara no Tate (Shield of Straw)

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 July 2013 in le Cinéma Impérial (Fantasia Festival Opening Night, HD)

I thought I'd seen it all from Takashi Miike - for a guy who started out doing quick, strange, direct-to-video crime movies, he's certainly seemed to do have done everything, from gross-out horror to whimsical adaptations of popular children's cartoons. Shield of Straw, though, checks off something I can't believe I'd missed: Great big mainstream contemporary thriller. And while not a whole lot of Miike oddity shows up, there's a startlingly smart, relevant story underneath the high concept.

A young girl has been found raped and murdered; DNA testing shows the culprit is almost certain to be repeat offender Kunihide Kiyomaru (Tatsuya Fujiwara). When he disappears, the girl's grandfather - old and extremely wealthy industrialist Takaoki Ninagawa (Tsutomu Yamazaki) offers a billion yen bounty (roughly ten million dollars) to anyone who kills Kiyomaru if they are found guilty in a court of law. Kiyomaru turns himself in, suddenly finding his hiding place unsafe, and two top members of the Security Police - widower Kazuki Mekari (Takao Osawa) and single mother Atsuko Shiraiwa (Nanako Matsushima) are assigned to assist detectives Takeshi Okumura (Goro Kishitani), Masataka Kanbashi (Kento Nagayama), and Kenji Sekiya (Masato Ibu) in transporting him back. But that bounty is so huge that not just civilians, but trained police officers will be tempted - possibly including someone within their group.

If this (or the novel it's based upon, Kazuhiro Kiuchi's Wara no Tate) isn't soon optioned for an American remake, then all of Hollywood is asleep at the wheel. Oh, it should absolutely play America as-is, hopefully in theaters rather than just video on-demand, but in a country having constant debates about the rights of accused criminals and terrorists and where a significant portion of the population is armed and espousing, if not vigilante justice, being proactive with their firearms... Well, you could adapt this into something just as pointed as it is thrilling. What Kiuchi has done is take a responsibility usually spouted by defense attorneys - that they are defending the system, if not the very idea of the very rule of law, as much as they are representing their distasteful clients - and transfer it to men of action. It makes an easily-dismissed concept into something concrete, as well as the chaos that would result if this principle was not upheld. Miike and screenwriter Tamio Hayashi get that out there early, but don't push it too hard at the time and never have the characters speechify about it later (lots of "it's my job", though), letting the idea hang over the action without overwhelming it.

Full review at EFC.

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