Get ready to enjoy this low-key story about a stray cat which ends up with surprisingly high stakes, as the comedic thriller Alley Cat brings together three down-on-their-luck types who come together and end up being embroiled in a conspiracy.
The film begins with a depressed ex-boxer (Yosuke Kubozuka) looking for his missing cat, Maru. He’s living with an injury he acquired in the ring, working whatever part-time job he can get his hands on. After Maru goes missing, it leads him to an animal shelter where Ikumi (Kenji Furuya) has just adopted the stray and renamed her Lily. An argument ensues about who has ownership of the cat, with Ikumi rushing away before anything is resolved. The two are brought together once again – they come to start calling each other ‘Maru’ and ‘Lily’ respectively of each other’s name of choice for their feline friend – when Maru is hired as a private bodyguard to look over Saeko (Yui Ichikawa) who’s dealing with a dangerous stalker, Tamaki (Hiroshi Shinagawa). Lily inadvertently ends up involved in the situation helping Maru in a fight with Tamaki, and the two rivals-turned friends realise they’re in way in over their heads as a political conspiracy begins to unravel around them.
Maru is the hero of our story as he seeks redemption for his past failings while Lily plays the part of his enthusiastic, loveable sidekick. As the film gets into it, their animosity towards each other turns into a budding friendship as the two balance each other out. Saeko meanwhile is the film’s strongest character, providing the plot points and motivation to move everything along nicely at each interval.
This is a fun buddy-movie with added drama centred around a thrilling plot. The tones shift quickly and it’s an enjoyable mesh of genres. The dynamic between the Maru and Lily plays wonderfully against the drama brought to the story by Saeko’s troubles that follow her on two fronts – the dangerous stalker and her troubled past in Tokyo, which is quickly catching up with her. This part of the film takes over in the final act leaving little room for the light-hearted comedy that the film built itself on in the first 80 minutes. Unfortunately Alley Cat is let down by it’s excessive run-time and vague ending. If you can overlook this, then its a fun film that mostly keeps you involved and intrigued.