Japan Film Festival 2014 Review: JUDGE! Scores No Points

Editor; Australia (@Kwenton)
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 clich├ęd 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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