Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie 22 Review: Goemon

"Goemon" is a 2009 Tokusatsu Historical Fantasy Film very loosely based on the folklore of Japan's Robin Hood, Goemon Ishikawa. It was directed by Kazuaki Kiriya ("Casshern", various Music Video Projects) and was nominated at the Asian Film Awards in 2010 in the categories Best Costume Designer (Tina Kalivas and Vaughan Alexander) and Best Visual Effects (Takuya Fujita and Kôji Nozaki).

It stars Yōsuke Eguchi ("Tokyo Love Story", "Lunch no Joō", "Sengoku Jieitai 1549") as Goemon Ishikawa, Tokimasa Tanabe ("Kamen Rider Agito") as younger Goemon, Takao Osawa ("Ichi", "Sky High", "Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box") as Kirigakure Saizō, Takeru Satoh ("Kamen Rider Den-O", "Rookies", "BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad") as younger Saizō, Ryoko Hirosue ("Wasabi", "Dekichatta Kekkon", "Departures") as Chacha, Eiji Okuda ("The Pianist", "Like a Rolling Stone", "Otoko-tachi no Yamato") as Hideyoshi Toyotomi, Jun Kaname ("Kamen Rider Agito", "Turtles Are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers", "Grave of the Fireflies") as Ishida Mitsunari, & Gori (of the Rock/Nu Metal music band "Back-On") as Sarutobi Sasuke.

It's supporting cast includes Arashi Fukasawa (Who played Prince Wataru in "Kamen Rider Decade") as Koheita, Mikijiro Hira as Rikyū Sen, Masatô Ibu as Tokugawa Ieyasu, Tetsuji Tamayama (GaoSilver in "Hyakajuu Sentai Gaoranger") as Matahachi, Hashinosuké Nakamura as Oda Nobunaga, Choi Hong-man as Gao, Susumu Terajima as Hattori Hanzō, & Director Kazuaki Kiriya as Akechi Mitsuhide.

The film takes our Bandit Hero Goemon and twists it in the same way that 2010's Robin Hood did for the titular character. It does work better than Robin Hood though and is a much better film than it.

The story is about Goemon Ishikawa, in progress of stealing some Gold, steals a box as well on a whim. He opens it and finds nothing, yet finds out it was Pandora's Box, and because he stole it, causes the whole of Japan to crumble in the middle of the Sengoku "Warring States" Period of Japan.

The story is really well done but what keeps it from being great is an over abundance of CG use. It's to be expected since the director formally did Music Videos, which are known to be full of action and full of CG use. I think Mr. Kiriya relied too much on the CG use, with the Anime style battles & obviously fake fantastical backgrounds, and I feel it takes the viewer out of the film. Reminding them, that it's not a real set.

The other issue is the big turn of Goemon Ishikawa's connection to the Sengoku period. *SPOILERS AHEAD, see next paragraph to skip it* He did try to assassinate Toyotomi Hideyoshi, but he didn't know Nobunaga, nor did he work under him. He was just a thief tired of the state that Hideyoshi was running as Warlord, and wanted to free it's people. *END OF SPOILERS*

It was nice to see so many Toku actors, even if I didn't immediately recognize them. I knew Arashi Fukasawa right off as he has a distinctive face, but I didn't even recognize Takeru Satoh or Jun Kaname, I've watched them all the time when they played Kamen Rider Den-O & Kamen Rider G3 respectively, Satoh especially. Props to them by making their performance more about their character than themselves as an actor. Which is the fall of someone like Christopher Walken, who's a funny actor, but you don't think about the character he's playing, you're thinking "Hey, Christopher Walken is in this movie".

Goemon is quite the Folk Hero, as his story inspired many media to be made using him. There is a Kabuki Play called Kinmon Gosan no Kiri (The Golden Gate and the Paulownia Crest), a Konami Video Game Series called "Legend of Mystical Ninja"/"Ganbare Goemon" (You can do it, Goemon), Goemon's 13th Decendent is in the Anime "Lupin III", a wrestler Koji Nakagawa took up the name after being nicknamed "Mr. Double Cross", and many many more references.

Overall the film is quite good, CG use aside, and is one to check out.

Flickchart Rankings
Worldwide; N/A
Tack Angel: N/A

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