Fantasia Film Review: Shield of Straw

(Source: Warner Bros)

Kiyomaru (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is the worst kind of criminal – he abuses and kills children. When the corpse seven-year-old granddaughter of rich business mogul Ninagawa appears, the millionaire does not hesitate to offer a billion yen for his death.

Welcome the 2013 Fantasia Film Festival. The opening film was the Japanese film Shield of Straw from director Takashi Miike.

Enter Security Police Lieutenant Mekari (Takao Osawa) and rival Sergeant Shiraiwa (Nanako Matsushima). They are tasked with bringing Kiyomaru from Fuyuoka in Southern Japan all the way to Tokyo. But things get even more complicated when it turns out that you don’t have to kill Kiyomaru… you get a million yen if you just try.

There is no way you can watch this movie without holding your breath. With nobody to trust and police officers ready to betray each other for that amount of money, things go south pretty quick while Mekari and Shiraiwa drag their disgusting travel companion who has no remorse about his crimes and is willing to make trouble for them along the way. Flanked by police officers from Fuyuoka that may or may not be giving away their position, they are constantly pursued by wannabe killers, some inventive, some over the top, some plain desperate.

Once the chase starts, the movie doesn’t let up. There’s no compromise at any point, no doubt that Kiyomaru is nothing but guilty, unredeemable and willing to commit more atrocities at a drop of a hat. But Mekari has an almost unbreakable sense of morals that is put through the test up to almost impossible odds. With an entire nation of people clamoring for the criminal’s head and an almost tacit compliance from the authorities, there’s no doubt this film raises the question of whether or not taking justice into your own hands wouldn’t be an easier, simpler solution. You will almost be joining the same cry before the movie ends, but you will not want to miss what happens next. Recommended.

That will do for now.

Coming up:

(Sources: 2013 Fantasia Film FestivalShield of Straw’s official web site)

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