Friday, 15 April 2011


An Amazon 4-star review.

It's Japan 1949. Because Japan struck a peace deal with the UK and USA there was no World War 2 and Japan is now a rigidly stratified society of have and have-nots. Its peace is only threatened by the master criminal, the Man of 20 (and probably a lot more) faces, K-20. Determined to steal a machine, invented by the Nobel prizewinning Nikolai Tesla, which broadcasts cheap power but he wants to use for destruction to make him the most important man in Japan, as part of his schemes he sets up our hero Heikichi Endo, a circus acrobat and illusionist, to be framed as K-20.


I loved this film. Based on either novels or manga (I'm not sure which) which have been popular for some time in Japan, it's directed with a feminine sensibility by Ms Shimako Sato who also wrote the screenplay. What this means in that there's a lightness of touch, a hero who is compassionate (he helps feed locals orphans living rough) fallible good-humoured and masculine without being macho, there's an element of humour and understated romance. There is also plenty of action. When Endo is broken out of prison by local thieves, he is given a book on how to become a master thief. The various elements play to both his intelligence and skills and involve a lot of parkour (the French sport of leaping around buildings) and provides everything he needs to challenge K-20.

The other main players, apart from the masked K-20 and Endo, are Baron Kogoro Takechi the senior police officer in charge of the K-20 and his fiancee Duchess Yoko Hashiba who seems to have reservations about her impending marriage. When Endo rescues Yoko from the clutches of K-20, he takes her to his world, a place of deprivation that Yoko never knew existed and which immediately sparks her social conscience. So we have a three-hander, plus master villain K-20 always waiting in the wings to strike.
Cop: Hero

Heroine: Hero

Hero: Villain

Hero: Hero's Buddy

There's lots going on in this film which is always fascinating and holds the attention for its two-hour running time (note: not the 2hrs42 it says on the DVD case). The special effects are great, the action is  wild, the acting is everything it should be. Don't let the fact that it's subtitled put you off. This is a great action movie with elements of science fiction, super-villainy, comedy, romance, social conscience and a lot of red herrings. Apart from some minor swearing it's fine as family viewing albeit not for younger kids who wouldn't be able to follow the subtitles anyway. That caveat to one side: highly recommended. Trust me, you'll love it.

Post Script.
I guessed who K-20 was very early on. Will you?

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