Monday, September 15, 2014

EigaFest: Lupin the Third Review Live Action Lupin

"What the f*ck!, " shouted out director Ryuhei Kitamura, when he heard he be doing the first live action Lupin film in decades. He revealed more as a special guest of the evening for the iconic and beloved film of the famous thief from manga and anime in Japan. The International Premiere of Lupin the Third stole Friday night at LA's Eiga Fest. He was joined by the lovely Meisa Kuroki, who plays Lupin's love interest, super thief and as the director unbelievably asked her to be more sexy as Fujiko. Did you direct the same movie Ryuhei? Fujiko was sexy.

That sexiness made it into the live action "Lupin the Third", a manga come movie, that doesn't deviate from the "same action movie you've seen before from Japan". Starring Shun Oguri as the world famous thief, Lupin. Lupin is joined by dead shot Jigen played by Sho Sakurai. Add to the fight a sword wielding samurai and you have Goemon played by Satoshi Tsumabuki. Chasing them around thw world on their adventure was Tadanobu Asano as Inspector Zenigata of Interpol. All the actors made off with their roles, including Meisa Kuroki as the very sexy Fujiko, they each stole their moments.
Meisa Kuroki

In this live action adaption Lupin must team up with his band of thieves to get revenge for the murder of his mentor, Dawson, an aging wealthy British businessman who was also behind an elite thief group called "The Works" that Lupin was once a part of. "The Works" is broken apart by one of its own, Micheal Lee, who steals part of a necklace that was made for Cleopatra. The other part, a priceless ruby, belongs to a wealthy and corrupt protection services agency boss, Pramuk, who has a state-of-the-art fortress, The Ark, that Lupin and has team must infiltrate to get revenge and complete the necklace. Zenigata is hard on Lupin's tail as they jaunt around Asia.

"Lupin the Third" steal the same predictable action movie motifs you find in hundreds of Japanese action films. A first act to show off the action with a break in by Lupin and his over-the-top way of stealing at a museum. Explosives always beat rocket packs,parkour and grappling guns. A second half of  Lupin setting up a plan and putting together his team to take down Pramuk. This is a long lull of setting up for the big battle with Pramuk, that has moments that do entertain like: a car chase, some sexy cat-fighting and  some predictable betrayals. With a plan and a team Lupin and his crew head into a big action fight at the end infiltrating the Ark.
L-R:Ryuhei Kitamura, Meisa Kuroki,translator Mataichiro Yamamoto
It's a Japanese action movie we've seen over and over again.

The film had some stand out moments that the director should have played with more. The car chase in the film was reminiscent of the anime with a great  fight between the traior Micheal Lee's forces in a suped up Hummer and Lupin's crew in his iconic yellow 1957 Fiat 500. You'd easily think the massive Hummer would over power the dinky Fiat, but Lupin's skills as a driver our too much. A movie stopping moment ending the car chase with the talents of Goemon's blade had one of the bad guys so impressed he had to share it out loud, complimenting the no-nonsense Samurai.
Meisa Kuroki

A short robbery showing off Lupin's talent and penchant from robbing from thieves could have been multiplied instead of just slow-mowed. Lupin and Jigen running away with sacks of money, smiling and jumping into their Fiat with a sign left behind mocking those they robbed should have happened more than once.

Meisa Kuroki's cat fight must have taken some time to shoot. When Ms. Kuroki gets out of a tub a straight into a fight you don't have to wonder why the two girls in it suddenly go underneath the sheets. During the Q & A after the film we had Meisa Kuroki tell us the director's advice while shooting the catfight that wasn't done in one take, "Make it more sexy!" Soon after an audience member asked if Kuroki felt threatened on set. The director Ryuhei Kitamura came in on it and said, "There is no sexual harassment on my set. F*ck that!" He cursed more then our own Mayor Eric Garcetti after a hockey game.

Once we get to "The Ark", Lupin and his crew our in their groove. They each take on an enemy that counters their own skill alongside hundreds of enemy forces easily dispatched by them. Jigen takes out foes with his gun while Goemon slices out a path to the ark. Each special fight between Lupin's crew and Pramuk's top enforcers were  synchronized fights or clever moves fitting the characters. One of Goemon's foes gets a splitting headache and you see their perspective of the fight as they fall.
Lupin himself is on a role working out the different puzzles and traps to get to Cleopatra's necklace within "The Ark".
Lupin Fan 1

We even get an animated version of Lupin in his classic anime style when a computer virus infects "The Ark" computer systems. That with some other visual gags like blow-up dummies you'd normally see in the manga or anime should have been happening throughout the film.

Director Ryuhei Kitamura made it clear in the Q & A that he and producer, Mataichiro Yamamoto, also in attendance,  didn't want the film to be anything like the manga or anime. Something that fans will question. A question that sparked an explanation of why the film was missing many parts of Lupin was the missing of Lupin's iconic jazzy theme song and soundtrack not being in the film. Many scenes - and one day the car chase will have a jazzy soundtrack added on Youtube- our lacking any kind of fun or memorable soundtrack. The director will be faulted for this. Kitamura explained early on he had the chance to get the original musicians of the anime to do the soundtrack, but did not.

Lupin the Third is a watchable update to one of Japan's favorite thieves. Shun Oguri as Lupin and the rest of the cast breath the characters into life. I'm sure it will be praised for letting the characters come back to live-action. Kitamura sets a style that any other director could steal and makes you want to skip through some scenes. A better story; bringing back the music and letting it be more playful all around would have been a big score. Lupin the Third only gets away with so much.
Lupin Fan 2

Kitamura explained how Lupin wasn't an ideal choice for him in the Q & A with other tidbits on the process of Lupin coming back. Set two years ago and living in LA, the director was laughing at the fact his past producer, Mataichiro Yamamoto, got the rights to remake Lupin. He then got a call and found out he'd be doing the film.

Yamamoto, the producer told the audience, "This is a comedy, " which left me a little asking. The film is much more an action/hesit film than a comedy. It has the comedy that comes with an action movie.Technology of today was another factor in why the movie finally came out, "We did it because of the technology, Yamamoto said.

Director Kitamura has been friends with Monkey Punch, the pseudonym name of the creator of Lupin, going on for twenty-five years, who gave his blessing for the film. Kitamura said, "I was afraid of destroying  my relationship with him, " when he was making it.

The film was surprisingly heavily in English and as it turns out there are two versions. The one shown at the International Premiere was made to better work in the English speaking market, the other has more dialogue spoken in native Japanese.

When asked about a Versus 2, a Lupin crossover, and another Lupin film, Kitamura said it was all possible, but to tell his boss, who has all the money. More realistically the director believed that in a year from now he'd be working on the next Lupin. He couldn't say exactly what, but he's on a different project here and living here in LA. "Constantine meets Blade," is all he could reveal. An action horror movie is his prerogative right now.

L-R Ryuhei Kitamura,  Mataichiro Yamamoto