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Unlucky Monkey
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by Jay Seaver

"And then, everything goes straight to hell."
2 stars

I didn't come into Unlucky Monkey expecting to dislike it. I'd never seen anything from writer/director Hiroyuki Tanaka (credited as Sabu), but the email assured me that he was one of Japan's most prominent comic directors.

It also starts well enough, with a hilarious heist-gone-wrong sequence that make a jarring transition from slapstick death to tragedy. It's followed by another sequence, where some down-on-their-luck yakuzas accidentally kill a far more important and connected gangster, which sets up a promising, darkly comic movie.

And then everything goes straight to hell. The movie stops being funny for roughly an hour, as the survivor of the bank heist runs around moping, getting paranoid, and eventually suicidal. Meanwhile, the other three guys try to cover what they did up, only making things worse. The two storylines occasionally bump up against each other, and eventually come together again. When they do, the movie is briefly funny again (in a sick, violent way), though it makes no sense.

With foreign movies, especially offbeat comedies, it's often difficult to gauge whether something is a bad movie or whether I, as a viewer, just don't/can't get it (this also keeps me from being able to write a particularly long, detailed review). Mainstream Japanese stuff is confusing enough, and then when I get an off-kilter look at a genre, it quickly becomes incomprehensible.

Certainly, part of the problem is that I came in expecting a comedy, which this really isn't. But it's not a very good crime movie, either, and didn't move me much as a drama.

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originally posted: 06/20/04 10:14:01
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