“Smuggler” Movie Review – World Premiere at TIFF

Smuggler (Japanese Name – Sumagurâ: Omae no mirai o erabe)

Sep 16 2011 – “After his dreams of becoming an actor go nowhere, 25-year-old Kinuta does nothing but gamble every day. Broke, framed and now neck-deep in debt, he is recruited as a smuggler – an underground mover of everything from dead bodies to illegal goods – but one cargo triggers the rage of a psychotic gangster hell-bent on revenge. By acclaimed cult director Katsuhito Ishii of Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl and Funky Forest fame.” That is the description given on the media site of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) for the Japanese movie Smuggler which had it’s world premiere during the TIFF’s awesome Midnight Madness Program. There were some technical issues which caused the movie to start an hour late, but the festival organizers had a quick thinking recovery plan in place . We got to see a very funny Bobcat Goldthwait come on stage and deliver a hilarious impromptu stand up comedy routine that had the audience howling with laughter. Well worth the hour delay! (YouTube video coming soon) This will go down as a very memorable night for everyone in attendance at Midnight Madness. We reviewed two other Midnight Madness movies called You’re Next here and Livid here and previewed the full Midnight Madness lineup here. The trailer of the movie is found below (『スマグラー』特報)

The film is directed by Katsuhito Ishii  who, as mentioned before, has worked on Japanese cult classics such as Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl and Funky Forest – I am guessing most of you have never heard of him or those movies. However I am certain you know his work – he did the uber violent anime sequence in Kill Bill 1 which shows how O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu’s character) was driven to psychotic anger. The film stars Satoshi Tsumabuki as the actor/smuggler and Masanobu Andô as the hired assassin (pictured above) I doubt the masses in North America will get to see or even hear of Smuggler which is a shame. This excellent flick felt alot like Sin City meets Ichi the Killer with a great balance of action and comedy. The movie is an adaptation of a manga (Japanse comic book) that was set in 1999. The movie transitioned in “chapters” which really gave it a comic book vibe. As one would expect the movie was ripe with extreme violence including amazing slow motion fight scenes where a punch to the face was stylized with an extreme closeup of the object hitting the face and the blood and spit from the impact slowly flying in the air to great effect. Many scenes featured blood stained walls which contrasted nicely with the humor found throughout the movie. The violence climaxed with a long torture scene that would make Jack Bauer seem soft. The diaper wearing torturer was as psychotic as any character you have ever seen in a movie!

The crowd reaction was unanimously positive  (as can be seen below by some typical tweets) and the rolling credits were met with very loud applause. The director Ishii introduced the movie (see here for video) and also fielded some audience questions as part of the post movie Q&A  (YouTube at the bottom of this post)

Verdict: Must see movie – one of the best Japanese movies I have ever seen.

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