Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Black Swindler (Eiga: Kurosagi)

I guess not only Hollywood is keeping an eye for potential comic book series or graphic novels to turn into movies, and for Japan, this had already been something ongoing given its rich manga culture with immense material to tap upon, with the latest and most popular here being the Death Note movies which had even spawned its own movie spin off L: Change The World, albeit to varying result. And the rule of thumb of course is to snag a heartthrob in your leading role, and you more or less have it made. In today's screening, Tomohisa Tamashita's popularity in the titular role got measured by the audible shrieks and wistful sighs each time he comes on screen, even in the nerdiest of disguises.

Tomohisa Yamashita plays Kurosaki, a man whose family was destroyed by swindlers, hence his deep hatred for the group. He follows in the steps of Bruce Wayne, though more focused in his vigilantism, targetting only con artists in a bid to do his own Robin Hood work, conning them back and reimbursing the respective victims. There are various categories of conmen, such as white for those out for riches, red for those out to steal hearts, and black for those who con other con artists.

For someone who hasn't read the manga, or followed the television series, this movie was quite a challenge for me to follow. Granted there was an origin flashback worked into it, but it served to confuse the current entanglement with its chief villain Ishigaki Tetsu, played by Naoto Takenaka, whom most will recognize as the sensei character in Waterboys or Swing Girls. Being a standalone movie, it tells of the dispicable acts that Ishigaki commits, in creating bankruptcy fraud, and how Kurosaki has him set in his sights for some black swindling, with a hunter after an extremely cunning prey.

Those without background knowledge will find adequate scenes in which a lot of questions will be asked. For starters, almost all the female characters here were treated second class, and not enough, despite its slightly more than 2 hours runtime, being focused on them. They come and go, and frankly speaking, could be done without as they don't hurt the plot an iota. Next, and I'm guessing here, is the love-hate relationship that Kurosaki has for his informer/con-master Katsuragi. While they exchange frequent notes on Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, it's hardly linked to, nor presents itself as a proper metaphor on the issue of trust which they're harping on, either that or the essence of it got lost in translation.

Scenes such as those mentioned, which require a lot more background knowledge, tend to overindulge themselves, hence alienating severely first time visitors to The Black Swindler's role. Some like Bayside Shakedown obviously makes it easy for non-fans/series followers to grasp and enjoy the ride, but The Black Swindler seems to have stamped itself strictly for those in the know only (or fans of Tomohisa Tamashita). Unless of course we decide to pick up the pieces from the established television series.

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