Kikujiro

"Weak"

Kikujiro Review


Trying to prove he's more than just a purveyor of handsome, message-heavy violence, Japanese writer-director-actor "Beat" Takeshi Kitano ("Fireworks," "Sonatine") has opted to make a sentimental road movie about a surly ne'er-do-well who finds a little heart while helping a 9-year-old look for his absentee mother.

The film is "Kikujiro." The kid is Masao (Yusuke Sekiguchi), a timid boy who was abandoned as a baby and has lived his whole life with his grandmother. The plot gets its start when Masao, bored with his summer break from school, decides to strike out on his own looking for the mother he's never met, and a neighbor's irresponsible oaf of a husband is reluctantly sent along as his guardian.

Kikujiro (Kitano) is a lousy choice for the job since he's uncouth, uninterested, self-centered, a habitual gambler and a cheat who soon sees them broke and sleeping in bus stops because he's blown their traveling money at the races. He makes young Masao pick the winners, then berates the kid when they lose. Somehow the scene plays funny, but it doesn't change the fact that Kikujiro is a jerk.

In one scene he leaves the kid outside a restaurant while he eats and the boy almost gets molested. They don't have money for transportation so he steals a taxi, but he doesn't know how to drive. Once in a while Masao, getting by on his cuteness, will find them a ride. But the antagonistic Kikujiro always manages to get them booted out on a remote roadside.

But through his abrupt, ill-mannered, fickle exterior, Kitano manages to endear Kikujiro with a hint of a soul as he grows to like the boy. But it's only a hint. This is no Hollywood movie where the bad man is forever changed by his friendship with the sullen but angelic child.

While it's a relief Kitano doesn't fall victim to the kind of sappy cliché traps that might seem inevitable in a story like this, the problem is he can't prevent the audience from wanting the reticent (and rather uninteresting) Masao to assert himself, run away from this schmuck and find his way home.

It's impossible to not wonder why in this over-long adventure there's no mention of the grandmother -- who must be worried sick when the kid and this creep don't report in for what must be two weeks. For that matter, why aren't the cops out looking for them? And why don't they report in? It's not like the movie takes place in feudal Japan -- there's phones everywhere.

As a writer and director, Kitano blinds himself these inescapable problems with his plot and opts instead for frosting "Kikujiro" with an odd and precarious layer of sweetness and cheerfulness, portrayed mostly through a child-like, piano recital soundtrack and Masao's surreal fantasies and dreams. It's as if he's trying to get the audience to let go its questions about realism and responsibility.

Further attempts include showing his character's off-kilter soft side -- like when he gets rough with a couple bikers to make them play with the kid. Why the bikers are scared of him isn't at all clear. The guy is rude, but he's hardly tough.

If distracting the audience from the movie's ingrained blunders is what he's trying to accomplish, it doesn't work. It's impossible not to wonder how he can expect us to sit still for Kikujiro's behavior, even if we do grow to like him a little.

"Kikujiro" may serve Kitano's intention of getting him out of his blood-and-guts gangster flick pigeon hole. But as entertainment, it's of little use.



Kikujiro

Facts and Figures

Run time: 121 mins

In Theaters: Friday 26th May 2000

Production compaines: Nippon Herald Films, Bandai Visual Company, Office Kitano, Tokyo FM Broadcasting Co.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: "Beat" Takeshi Kitano

Starring: as Kikujiro, as Masao, Kayoko Kishimoto as Kikujiros Frau, Yûko Daike as Masaos Mutter, as Masaos Grossmutter, Beat Kiyoshi as Mann an der Bushaltestelle, Gurêto Gidayû as Biker Fatso, as Biker Baldy, as Reisender Mann, Fumie Hosokawa as Jonglierende Fau, as Mann, Daigaku Sekine as Yakuza Boss, Makoto Inamiya as Yakuza Henchman, Hisahiko Murasawa as Yakuza Henchman, Fuyu Ooba as Hostess, Yôji Tanaka as Yakuza Henchman

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.