Thursday, October 23, 2008

[TIFF 2008 Review] Mr. Tadano's Secret Mission - From Japan with Love (特命係長 只野仁 最後の劇場版) (World Premiere)

Do You Find Me Sexy?

Set in December 2008 Tokyo, Mr Tadano's Secret Mission – From Japan With Love is an extended television episode designed for the big screen, and for those not familiar with the series, the opening credits do contain enough information for you to start off with, and other established norms easily get picked up as the movie goes on. A comedy in nature, this film's title is an obvious poke at James Bond's From Russia With Love, only that Mr Tadano doesn't work for the government, but for an advertisement agency reporting directly to the President of the company Denodo, and while he doesn't pack a Walter PPK, he shares the same mojo as Bond in using sex as a weapon to elicit information from powerful women.

By day Tadano (Katsuniro Takahashi) is the lowly and dull assistant manager of the 2nd general affairs department in the company Denodo, but by night, gone are the huge glasses, messy mop of hair and in comes some wit, charm, a voodoo rose (don't ask!) and some incredible fighting skills to defend his company's honour in any industrial espionage activities. His assigned Secret Missions come directly from the top guy and in keeping this a secret, he in his disguise become constant fodder for those who look down on the working class.

In fact, this film is a tribute to the ubiquitous suited salaryman, and there is no lack of explicit praises heaped upon the virtues they epitomize, such as honesty and hard work, though they often get abused by those in power and privilege. There was a point made which I thought was quite relevant and correct, that the eternal dilemma for man stands from our need, as pride, to work hard, though in doing so, they become busier, hence as a result, the lack of attention and time for the family. The connection he established with one of the local managers in Osaka was nothing short of sharing relevant pathos that can be enjoyed by everyone.

The mystery and case here in the movie for Tadano to crack involves his idol Sylvia, a sexy teen idol who's a manufactured star, and the company's upcoming Flower Earth Festival. As the newly minted spokesperson for Denodo, she is deemed as the new asset to the company and is scheduled to make an appearance at the Festival. Given the importance of the event, it is natural for Tadano to provide some additional security cover tasked as a minder from the ad agency, especially when threat messages by a certain Prince Darkness start to come in. At the same time, Tadano has to contend with the conflict of interest because of his personal liking for Sylvia, himself a fan boy.

Those worried that this might be a one man show and ego trip can put those thoughts at ease. There were plenty of supporting characters who provide the usual red herring and comedic intervals. Peppered with some visual effects to boost rather regular fight action sequences, the fights are quite 70s-80s Hong Kong old school style, and at times bordering in audacity when cooking up some ridiculously improbable situations, especially in his adversary with a Jaws-inspired character. Comedy comes loads, some offered by Tadano's assistant played by Atsuko Sakurai. Going one step further than Bond, this film does feature some random gratuitous nudity and again, some cartoony situations such as having busty babes enter a sauna and start to show off their cleavage to our heroes.

While not exactly pristine, Mr Tadano's Secret Mission at least didn't take itself too seriously, and had quite a good balance between its stronger dramatic moments, and the madcap zany comedy it gets itself into.

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