Tuesday, 19 November 2013
Shield of Straw 
From the standpoint of the quintessential facets of Miike’s oeuvre that have given him a cult following, Shield of Straw might easily be among his most mainstream, polished (not in a positive sense), plot-driven and genre-bound exercises. Conversely, it was also more accessible to a wider audience on account of its heeding to mainstream thriller sensibilities and the interesting premise it was based on. Yet, ironically, if one were to expect a riveting thriller, one would be left tad disappointed due to its wordy nature which was oftentimes detrimental in terms of sustaining a high level of tension and tautness. In short, it was a reasonably enjoyable ride, but also utterly forgettable and indistinguishable from the horde of thrillers that Hollywood throws on our way. When a billionaire tycoon puts an insane bounty on the head of the prime suspect (Tatsuya Fujiwara) in the brutality on his 7-year old granddaughter, the entire country becomes potential assassins, with people belonging to the armed forces and the desperate kind being the most dangerous of the lot. Hence, in order to get him to trial, two highly skilled members of an elite security force (Takao Osawa and Nanaku Matsushima), albeit with vulnerable personal lives, are given the arduous task of escorting the reviled and psychopathic young guy across the country to Tokyo, with unknown perils – both outward and inward – at every corner. A linear narrative like this literally thrives on a foolproof plot and a liberal dose of smart surprises, but the film was lacking on both fronts, and the much anticipated ending was particularly weak. It however did have a few good set-pieces, and they were its only saving graces.
p.s. Watched this as part of 2013 Kolkata International Film Festival (KFF)
Director: Takashi Miike