Coming as it does from the production arm of major Japanese broadcaster TBS it should probably not be quite so surprising that medical thriller The Glorious Team Batista plays like little more than an over blown television movie but somehow I expected more. Director Yoshihiro Nakamura is an accomplished veteran of the industry, after all, and one who has collaborated as a writer with Yoichi Sai and Hideo Nakata and his cast boasts a number of prominent names, prime among them Hiroshi Abe.
The story goes like this. A prominent heart surgeon and his team have had an uncommonly long string of successes with a high risk procedure known as Batista surgery in which a piece of the heart is removed and the remaining tissue sewn tight to correct enlargements of the organ. Despite a normal average success rate of only sixty percent the team rolled off twenty six consecutive successful surgeries before a string of three straight failures, failures that trouble the lead surgeon enough that he has requested an investigation into what’s going wrong, hoping to detect some flaw that can be corrected. Desiring an outside opinion on the situation he hospital assigns the investigation to Taguchi, a shy young woman who works in the hospital as a sort of low level therapist, listening to ‘undefined complaints’ from a regular crew of hypochondriacs and lonely old women.
Taguchi, however, is unable to find anything wrong and labels the deaths as unexplainable, a result that doesn’t please the hospital’s director who calls in a favor with old friend Shiratori, a brash health ministry investigator played by Hiroshi Abe who barges in, labels the deaths murder and starts slinging accusations around in hopes of provoking some sort of response.
And so the search is on but the problem is the film offers neither a plausible mystery – why does Abe conclude murder when the team has a success rate more than twenty percent better than the national average? – nor plausible suspects nor much in the way of dramatic tension. The characters are stock at best, the story arc blandly predictable and the ending drawn out beyond reasonable bounds. The technical end is solid and the performances good enough but the script for this just feels far more like a lengthy episode of prime time network television from the pre-HBO era – much more Murder She Wrote or Matlock than Dexter – than it feels like the feature film – adapted from a popular mystery novel – that it is. Horrible? No, just horribly bland.