Reviewed by Wong Lung Hsiang
Director: Watanabe Kazushi
Writing Credits: Watanabe Kazushi
Cast: Kawaoka Daijiro, Watanabe Kazushi, Noro Takeo
Year Released: 2000
Runtime 83 min
Rating: ** ½ (out of four stars)
An engaging offbeat comedy that shows the influence of American independent road movies and yet still retains the Japanese-style minimalistic depiction of violence and black humor. Watanabe brings his personal experience onto the silver screen with intentionally amateurish, unpolished handheld camera work and editing, plus the rough, Digital video-like color tones and images (according to Watanabe, the film was first shot in 35mm negative, transferred to video for digital effects, and then transferred back to 35mm print), which makes this film **ridiculously** interesting to watch.
The first 40 minutes of the film manages to characterize the three gangsters through a series of utterly funny small-time robbery and thefts in the city, and the kidnapped student's failed attempts to escape. Then, when we are brought to the 30-minute beach sequence which is seemingly draggy and boring (four characters stay idle, watching the sky and taking photos for each other), I didn't lose my concentration on the film, thanks to the first 40 minutes, because I was expecting something ridiculous to happen. Something does happen, and yes, rather unexpectedly and ridiculously - but the minimalistic treatment worked fine there and I didn't feel the psychological impact that other films like the ending of Focus (1997) had brought me.
Is it considered a failure if a crime scene in a movie has no emotional power? Not necessarily. I admire Watanabe's toned-down treatment because it perfectly fits the atmosphere and the spirit of the entire film - modern youngsters who have lost their direction and instead suffer in endless boredom.
During the Q&A session, a member of the audience innocently asked Watanabe that whether the four characters are seeking for a direction or the meaning of life? My friend and I whispered to each other almost simultaneously, "No!" Instead, Watanabe answered, "It's up to you to decide." Yes, trivialities may be the major criticism the film has received, but Watanabe has shown his potential in directing.