Saturday, October 31, 2009

Amalfi (Amarufi: Megami no Hôshû / アマルフィ女神の報酬)

I guess even coming back from the Tokyo International Film Festival my appetite for Japanese films still isn't satiated. Amalfi is Fuji TV's 50th anniversary film, and it's no holds barred in terms of the production values, jet-setting throughout Rome, with a bevy of star, even getting Sarah Brightman herself to perform the number “Time to Say Goodbye” on screen.

Yuji Oda stars as what looked to be on the surface as an uncomfortable career diplomat, though I'd like to think of his character here as a behind-the-scenes clandestine operative sent around the world to provide various Japanese embassies that oversight into major events their diplomats are organizing or attending. It's been some time since I last saw a Yuji Oda film, the last I believe being very long ago with the Bayside Shakedown 2 film, and he's visibly aged here, with no hint of a betrayal to the more quirky Aoshima character then, versus a no-nonsense, serious role here.

Caught up in between a kidnapping of a Japanese girl and his actual mission in shadowing the ministerial visit, his Kuroda-san becomes drawn toward the plight of a single mom Saeko (Yuki Amami) who had lost her daughter Madoka (Ayane Omori) while out touring Rome. Sworn to render assistance to all Japanese citizens overseas regardless of rank and title, he takes it upon himself, albeit quite reluctantly given his more pressing, diplomatic matters, to assist in what seemed like a simple extortion case, but one which will unravel itself to reveal a somewhat convoluted plot of a larger conspiracy involving retribution, vengeance and the seeking of justice.

I was very much drawn towards Yuji Oda's character as a man torn between duty and good sense to help a fellow citizen in a strange land. Very much like his Bayside Shakedown films which examine the perennial tussle between beat cops and its internal bureaucracy, Amalfi also provided a sneak peek into the lifestyle of diplomats overseas who live under the graces of its citizen's taxes back home, and it presented itself as a commentary and a demonstration on the extravagance led by the diplomatic corps, where anything budgeted should be maxed out, and in some instances, allowed to go beyond allocation too.

The plot though did require some suspension of disbelief, given what you would expect necessary for all the disparate incidents to come converging toward each other as the narrative progressed. There are moments which do seem a little far-fetched, especially when it has to do with security processes within restricted environments, and how anyone could go away scot free after causing what could become an international disaster.

Being a film to celebrate an anniversary, no effort got spared in the production front. There's even Sarah Brightman lending her vocals in a scene designed to do just that. On the whole it's a relatively entertaining investigative thriller running around Rome much like what Angels and Demons did.

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