Due to unforeseen circumstances, I wasn’t able to cover Japan Cuts in the same depth that I have in the past but that didn’t stop me from catching a few films, all of which were very different in nature. The first one I had the pleasure of screening was Teruyuki Yoshida’s comedic thriller, Shippu Rondo.
The film, which is based on Keigo Higashino’s novel, follows a middle manager research scientist named Kazuyuki Kurabayashi (Hiroshi Abe). When Kazuyuki’s employee is fired for creating a biological weapon called K-55, he returns to his office, steals the anthrax-like weapon, buries it under the snow on a giant ski resort and demands 300 million from his former company. It’s at that point that the director of the lab aka Kurabayashi’sboss (Akira Emoto) orders Kurabayashi to go out and find the Anthrax before it gets released and kills everyone in the area.
To accomplish his goal, Kurabayashi lures his moody son to the mountain to indirectly help with his secret mission and enlists the help of a local snowboarder (Yuko Oshima) and ski patrol employee (Tadayoshi Okura). Unbeknownst to all of them, there is someone else lurking at the mountain trying to find the canister of K-55 as well and it is up to the rag-tag group to find it before the other person.
Shippu Rondo was an absolute joy. It’s a pretty family friendly film which means you’re in for plenty of cheesy dialogue and over-the-top/exaggerated performances, but that doesn’t take away from how fun the film was. It had a ton of slapstick humor which reminded me of The Pink Panther and The Naked Gun, but it was done so predominantly in a dry way that made it uniquely Japanese. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion and I’d probably re-watch the film again because those scenes were just ridiculous and on point.
A portion of the film was dedicated to a romance between a local ski girl and Kurabayashi’s son. While I wasn’t necessarily a fan of all the attention paid to this plot, it was smartly used as a device to refocus the attention on Kurabayashi and his son’s strained relationship. The romance was also a perfect device for some great last minute humor that strayed from the standard Hollywood ending and more in the “nice guys finish last” approach, which was very refreshing. So while we had to sit through some of the relationship cheese, I thought the payoff was worth it.
Overall, Shippu Rondo was much more entertaining than I thought it would be and was a great film to kick-off my Japan Cuts 2017 experience. While it’s unlikely the film will ever get Overall, a real release here in the states, if you come across it at a festival I’d definitely recommend giving it a watch.