Japan Film Festival 2014 Review: JUDGE! Scores No Points

Contributing Writer; Melbourne, Australia (@Kwenton)
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Japan Film Festival 2014 Review: JUDGE! Scores No Points
Judge! is a satirical look into the Japanese advertising scene, which, anyone should know is a bizarre industry given the output of truly surreal commercials that are churned out daily. The film starts off promising with an over-the-top shoot of a ridiculous ad which is hilarious given the utmost seriousness applied to such dumb-founded randomness.

The protagonist Ohta (Satoshi Tsumabuki) is a struggling ad man with no confidence, he is introduced and undermined by his colleagues, including a female team member who is also named Ohta. Dodgy deals, including a potential rigging of an awards show leads Ohta's supervisor to back away from affairs, and Ohta is tricked into attending the Santa Monica Advertising Awards to promote a dud commercial. However, a chance encounter with another entrant leads Ohta to believe in himself and do the right thing, despite the inherent corruption around him.

Judge!'s synopsis certainly sounds appealing on paper, unfortunately the incisive biting satire of the industry is non-existent in practice, instead replaced by disgustingly broad comedy that includes sexism, gay stereotypes and slapstick stupidity that has no place or relevance. Even the initial scenes in Japan are filled with tropes. A down on his luck salary man, a clichéd evil boss and a complete dumbing down of serious political and legal ramifications of industry meddling.

Every single character is completely detestable, Ohta is pathetic and whiny, his colleague even more so and a romantic subplot with her goes nowhere, merely existing as filler. Worse still the 'Santa Monica' scenes clearly not shot on location are foul. Every white character may as well be aliens from space as they do all they can to not act like regular human beings. This would be great if it served the plot or meant anything related to advertising but sadly it does not.

Mindless idiocy replaces comedy and the film decays as it goes on. There is a desperation that is so unappealing that the film by this point has given up. The fake ads at the award show are not funny, the gay perverts are not funny and the racist jibes are definitely not funny. The film is so bad that it literally runs out of jokes. The last twenty minutes are meant to be emotional and full of drama as the right commercial is voted for, but it just comes off as agonizingly dull. In fact, the majority of the film takes place in a dull screening room and the same scenario in this location is repeated about four times.

There was a wealth of material to satirize, particularly on Japan alone, but the film confidently increased its scope to make fun of foreign commercials and their agents. Unfortunately this confidence is painfully misplaced, and the irresponsible nature of the film and its failure to even remotely display an ounce of intelligence and wit to this excellent source material is criminal.

Judge! could be the worst film I have seen this year, it is frankly unwatchable and stupidly offensive with no idea who its target audience is, I suspect even industry people will find no inside jokes, or in fact any value of any kind.

Judge! screens as part of the Japanese Film Festival in select Australian and New Zealand cities. See the website for more details.
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Japanese Film FestivalJudge!ReviewSatoshi Tsumabuki

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wikig1itchNovember 28, 2014 3:02 AM

Ouch. A shame to hear this is so terrible. I can't wait see the Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy, The Kiyosu Conference, Lupin the Third & Tokyo Tribe though. It's been too long since I've attended a film festival.

tom timNovember 28, 2014 4:25 AM

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Art VandelayNovember 28, 2014 6:15 AM

Rurouni Kenshin Trilogy is good, but I haven't read the manga or watched the anime, and I could even tell that some of the story was rushed and some of the characters were short-changed. Action was fantastic though, and Takeru Sato is much more confident in his portrayal as Kenshin.

Lupin the Third was entertaining enough for me, thanks to the cast chemistry and the fun vibe. Special mention goes to Shun Oguri, who looks like he was having the time of his life. But be cautious as there are no true heists and the action scenes were sub-par.

Tokyo Tribe was fantastic. Absolutely loved it. As there are many fantastic moments in the film, there was one character that made me completely lose it. And she stole the show from Riki Takeuichi and Ryohei Suzuki. Which I never thought was even possible in my wildest dreams. I won't tell you who she is, but damn, she made me laugh.

I also watched Lady Maiko, which was incredibly charming, beautiful, nice (maybe a little too nice) and fun, though overlong, in a classical sense. Mone Kamishiraishi was such a wholesome presence, off-screen and off. Was weird seeing Hiroki Hasegawa so sedate after Why Don't You Play In Hell.

Sorry for gushing, but it was my first festival in a long time too.

wikig1itchNovember 28, 2014 9:05 PM

No need to apologize, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your write-up. Now I'm even more excited for Tokyo Tribe & will definitely see if I can make some time for Lady Maiko.

The last festival I attended was the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival, will never forget the crowd at both the Black Dynamite & Thirst screenings. Hopefully this year's JFF yields some memorable experiences too.

Art VandelayNovember 28, 2014 9:28 PM

I also saw My Man. Wood Job! and All-Round Appraiser Q. There's no need to explain how good the first two are. The latter was a surprise for me, because I knew next to nothing about it and considering the director as well, it was refreshing. I haven't seen The Kiyosu Conference. But seeing the cast and director, it could be great.

Art VandelayNovember 28, 2014 9:35 PM

I also saw My Man. Wood Job! and All-Round Appraiser Q. There's no need to explain how good the first two are. The latter was a surprise for me, because I knew next to nothing about it and considering the director as well, it was refreshing. I haven't seen The Kiyosu Conference. But seeing the cast and director, it could be great.

disqus_s4itc1W6CFNovember 29, 2014 1:14 AM

Thanks for this take. I actually enjoyed this movie quite a bit. Infact it even does have a repeat value. Ofcourse, the homophobic angle should have been played down but it doesn't come across as oh so offensive, rather juvenile and let go. Here is a guy who knows his ads but is unable to step out into the social world. A female lead with a gambling addiction, how often is this done. Every character is blatantly played up for exaggeration and types so it worked. A very Japanese movie.