[My thanks to regular ScreenAnarchy reader Brad for passing along this review of new Japanese action-drama Chameleon. To put it mildly Brad and I have wildly different opinions of the film (I saw it in the market in Cannes and really enjoy it myself) but hey ... to each their own ...]
Dear Sweet Holy Moses.
I know Kevin Smith [Director of Clerks, Chasing Amy] is often lambasted for his lack of directorial style and static camera setups but wow...this film takes the prize. It's almost like the director had no idea he could physically touch the camera, instead pushing the record button with a stick and hoping it would all come together later.
While this may pay off with other, more talented filmmakers [Hideo Nakata from Ringu fame], here it does not in the least.
Chameleon has been heralded as Japan's resurgence in the action genre [why do people seem to forget Ryuhei Kitamura and his library of flicks?] and if this is the sign of things to come...then there will be no coming, only a mild camera pan here or there.
While the heavily publicized action might be nice and honest for a change and I sure can't fault the acting [as everyone did a stand up job, no ball dropping here!], it's surely the most boring and ugly film I've seen in a long time...and I watched Machine Girl!
I do love Revenge movies. They're bleak, hard hitting and often quite black with their humor [witness Payback with Mel Gibson] and based on the synopsis alone...Chameleon hits all the right notes.
The story follows Tatsuya Fuijwara's Goro as he and 3 friends live a dull life making money anyway they can, even the odd wedding scam. They all live in a disused factory with 3 elderly Kabuki actors.
Leaving said scam one night, they come across a delicate situation involving a politican and some thugs and decide to record it. This one recording will cascade into a series of events that push Goro further and further into a rage that culminates into a full blown action set piece to close the film.
Sounds good huh? I have to give points to the screenplay's overall story and some of the sharp dialog like this nugget of awesomeness; "Oh...I guess you can still use your dick...here...feel my breast....saggy huh"? However, the whole film was in dire need of a rewrite or an experienced action editor.
As I said, I love revenge movies and the stuff from the 70's is as good as it gets. This film desperately tries to ape this [with the script actually being written for screen legend Matsuda Yusaku back in 1978!!] but completely leaves you hanging with it's total lack of panache and style. Lighting is almost non existent, instead of looking cool and washed out...it just looks cheap and amateurish.
This is a film that was jam packed with potential and with a solid cast to boot. I have no idea why studio did not realize the immense suckage on display here but I do hope that if future sequels are in order...they hire a director who knows the score.
Any film where a character undergoes a sudden costume change in the finale [complete with trenchcoat and glasses] for no reason other than the 'cool factor' [when the film has been striving for realism] has serious issues.