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By Mark Fulton | July 11, 2010

Man wrongly accused.

Those three words summon Alfred Hitchcock to many and some of the best cinema ever made. Anyone following those footsteps carries a heavy burden. Perhaps that is why this film’s flaws seem so…flagrant, obvious, shameful…I can’t find the right words. But it’s almost like I can feel The Master of Suspense reaching from beyond the grave wanting to shake this into something magnificent.

The prime minister of Japan returns to his hometown in a Kennedyesque welcome parade. A deliveryman, who has the notoriety of saving a pop singer’s life a couple years previous, sits with his friend in a car. The deliveryman passes out. When he awakes, the friend reveals he drugged the deliveryman and the car is rigged to blow. The friend has debts to the wrong people but still has a conscience. There’s an explosion in the parade. The deliveryman runs. The car explodes killing his friend. The prime minister is dead and the deliveryman is at the wrong place at the wrong time. The chase is on!

There’s a delightfully great twist with a serial killer. The fantastic script, based on a novel by Kotaro Isaka, never runs out of kooky characters or surprises and turns. There’s some witty dialogue as a cherry on top. Unfortunately, there are crippling problems.

This is a bizarre case where the script is terrific and the direction and editing fail it badly. 98% of the time, with movies of any kind, there are script problems of some nature. Writing is the hardest thing to do. Good editing and direction can make up for some script flaws. This happens with most movies that are just good. But not here. Yoshihiro Nakamura’s direction is so slack, plodding, and unimaginative that it undermines what should be fantastic. Even the actors are good and Nakamura still screws it up. It’s only because I like the script so damn much that I’m giving this review an extra half-star.

Many people will enjoy this and that’s understandable. It was a big hit in its native Japan. To be fair a couple plot points are unclear and a Beatles motif feels forced, but the direction and editing are so bad that I give the story the benefit of the doubt. Where is the music score? Something orchestral, tuneful, and fun should be here. This is truly frustrating when there is promise of being much more. Like so many others, I am sick to death of the remake fever gripping Hollywood. But here’s actually a case where it’s justified. Someone like Tom Tykwer or Christopher Nolan could make this sing.

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