Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Liar Game: The Final Stage (Raiâ Gêmu: Za Fainaru Sutêji)

Liar Liar

If you need an indication whether Liar Game: The Final Stage is any good, then the consistent full house a week into its release should be enough to convince you to watch this, even if you, like me, haven't been following the exploits of the characters on the small screen. While the West have always contemplated how viable it is to bring its television series to the big screen, you'll see no such lack of attempts from the Land of the Rising Sun, and frankly I'm waiting for Bayside Shakedown 3 to make it here since I'm such a huge fan.

Anyway I digress, but you get the idea that such films have a supportive fan base who will turn out in droves for the big screen experience of their beloved series and characters. Liar Game has its roots from manga and television, and of late the suspense/thriller genre has been quite successful with films such as the Death Note series and Kaiji piquing audience interests and engaging them in a battle of wits throughout the movie.

Like the film Exam, this one is predominantly set in a single set location, where the ever-trusting and trustworthy Kanzaki Nao (Erika Toda) gets invited back into the final round of a game, which is something like Survivor where the winner is chosen from how conniving one can be amongst a group of similarly motivated individuals. It's all about the money making more money from how big one's greed and appetite for manipulation is, and like the Saw films, exposes the flaws of man as well as our tendency to put forth self-interests first. And of course joining her are some characters from previous episodes, including her benefactor of sorts, the highly manipulative and intelligent Akiyama Shinichi (Shota Matsuda).

The game play for what is called the "Garden of Eden" is pretty straightforward, with rules defining what can or cannot be performed, as well as results coming from a combination that will determine how points, in this case money, get awarded. Naturally sides get drawn and flimsy alliances form, and most of the fun comes from being able to guess correctly who the traitors are in such alliances, as well as to witness the countless of twists, turns, hidden agendas and secret alliances as we go through some 13 rounds of fun surprises. Scheming and double-crossing become the order of the day, and lies and the calling of bluffs become the primary tools of getting ahead.

Part of the fun also lies in the fact that the film is a mirror of human tendencies, where we allow our failings to get the better of us, instead of the willingness to band together for the greater good. Individual self interests will lead to trust issues amongst the group, and highlights once again about the greed of man, as well as how a small heart and a suspicion let out of hand, will continue to ruin us. In some ways this film begets repeated screenings because then you will possess a cheat sheet in your mind to know the process of elimination, and place some characters higher up on your radar just to observe their individual reactions prior to some great reveal, although be warned, some slight liberties have been taken in some of the flash back scenes where you're not given any prior knowledge, for example, on certain sequence of things.

Liar Game: The Final Stage is a game of deception that plays out like chess, where you'll need to always be multiple steps ahead of your opponent and being able to tell lies from verbal and non-verbal means of communication in order to influence results in your favour. Director Hiroaki Matsuyama may tend to overuse the closeups which get zoomed onto the faces of the characters in sync with the music beats, but don't let the presentation fool you from watching a top notch film.

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