Golden Slumber fills my eyes, but what exactly is it I'm seeing? A man-on-the-run conspiracy thriller, mixing JFK and The Bourne Identity? Or a treatise on friendship lost, the repairing of bonds, and finding one's way "back home"? The film is showing as part of the New York Asian Film Festival, so it should come as no surprised that the answer to the question is... both. Yoshihiro Nakamura's followup to festival favorite, Fish Story, has been garnering mostly positive notices, but I'm going to be a party pooper and go against the grain on this one.
It sucks, because Golden
Slumber has a fantastic
hook. Mild-mannered Aoyagi reunites with an old school chum for what
he thinks will be a fun-filled weekend of fishing and male bonding.
Instead, he finds himself on the run from the law, wanted for the
of Japan's Prime Minister. (The scene where his friend explains what
is going on is pretty great.) We are never quite sure who is behind
the setup or why, but the whole thing reeks of government malfeasance.
This mystery is what's so enticing
about Golden Slumber, but the potential for a labyrinthine
is squandered in favor of sentimentality and silliness. That's not to
say Golden Slumber isn't intricately constructed, but that
construction has little to do with the mystery itself. It has more to
do with the character's pasts, and how those pasts affect the outcome
of the story. Abandoned vehicles as love motels and summer employ with
the local fireworks manufacturer both play major roles, but give no
insight into the real perpetrators behind the crime.
These moments are what propels the
plot. As we hit the midsection of the film, the action goes from taught
to flabby and we are inundated with expository flashbacks. When
presented, they feel superfluous and confusing, and only serve to slow
the momentum. It is not until later that their importance becomes clear,
but by then it almost doesn't matter.
Then there are the happy-go-lucky
serial killer and the hospitalized gangster who help Aoyagi along the
way. One doles out advice while the other dispenses plastic manhole
covers (you heard me.) These characters are too broad to be truly
and although played for laughs, weren't all that funny. There was one
stand-out scene where Kill-O, the unfortunately named serial killer,
faces off against a badass shot-gunner with a predilection for hearing
protection, but other than that, I didn't care for him.
Another huge gripe is the use of
one of the biggest movie cliches of all time- the ole' sentimental
stops a bullet to the heart. Every time I see it I just blanche; it
is the kiss of death. The fact that Nakamura puts a modern twist on
it by using an ipod does not help matters. I saw that shit on Mythbusters;
an ipod will NOT stop a speeding bullet.
Come to think of it, this is the
second film I've reviewed for the festival that utilizes this cliche.
That's two out of four films! Fifty percent !The first was Crazy Racer,
but I must have completely blocked it out of my mind, like being touched
by a creepy uncle. Golden
Slumber brought it all
back to me like post-hypnotic suggestion. No wonder the positive nature
of my Crazy Racer review didn't sit well.
That was pretty much the lullaby
for this pretty darling. Once, there was a way to go back home, but
after "the ipod incident", who would want to? It doesn't matter
that home is filled with the sweet refrain of McCartney's melody (sung
with slightly slurred R's), has a great premise, and contains a handful
of memorable scenes. My disappointment is a bullet that will not
be stopped, and it is coming straight for your heart, Golden
Slumber. Now if you'll excuse
me, I've got to rewrite my Crazy
Golden Slumber screens Friday, July 2nd at Japan Society
and Tuesday, July 6th at Walter Reade Theater. Click here for more info and tickets!