'Live' (Raivu): Fantasia Review
Noboru Iguchi adapts a Japanese novel in the vein of "Battle Royale."
A self-aware gorefest that pokes fun at game-of-death conventions without failing to exploit them for thrills, Noboru Iguchi's Live takes pragmatic liberties in adapting Yusuke Yamada's novel of the same name. Working with a budget that prohibits envisioning the nationwide contest Yamada depicted, Iguchi offers a sadist who was inspired by the novel to torture a dozen or so seemingly random citizens, one of whom has the same name as the book's hero. Fast-moving, funny and unthreateningly lurid, it delighted this capacity crowd and should play similarly at fanboy-friendly fests; on video, it should do well with those seeking a goofier take on the Battle Royale / Hunger Games template.
Naoto (Yuki Yamada) is a sullen youth who had turned his back on his family before our unseen villain kidnapped his mother, informing him he must follow an obscure trail of riddles and challenges in order to save her. Blackmailed into a contest he soon realizes will require killing his competitors, Naoto finds himself competing with strangers facing similar dilemmas: As we learn midway through the film, many of this game's unwilling players are actually pretty ambivalent about the "loved ones" they're fighting to rescue. Their wishy-washiness amplifies their natural reluctance to fight, giving a giddy flavor to the frenzy with which some eventually accept their mission.
Teaming with the strangely friendly Shinsuke (Yuki Morinaga) and the girlish do-gooder Rumi (Ito Ono), Naoto overcomes some of his misanthropy while the world goes to hell around him. Deaths both teased-out and shockingly sudden take out fellow contestants, and some of those who survive into the second half become freakishly bloodthirsty. Iguchi and his effects crew deliver violence that is cartoonish without being distractingly fake, and the pace of the carnage rarely flags. Yasuhiko Fukuda's synth score may be cheap and cheesy, but it keeps the energy up effectively.
Despite Yasutaka Nagano's washed-out cinematography, the film is accessible to genre auds in a way Iguchi's other Fantasia entry, Gothic Lolita Battle Bear, definitely isn't. That may not endear the film to his small club of true believers, but it bodes well for those hoping this proudly juvenile filmmaker (even here, he can't resist gratuitous scenes of young women in white panties) will eventually care as much about the audience as he does about his own childish obsessions.
Production company: Kadokawa
Cast: Yuki Yamada, Ito Ono, Asami, Yuki Morinaga, Mitsuki Koga, Yoshiyuki Morishita
Director: Noboru Iguchi
Screenwriters: Noboru Iguchi; based on the novel by Yusuke Yamada
Producers: Hidehisa Chiwata, Hiroyuki Miura, Naohiko Ninomiya
Executive producers: Shinichiro Inoue
Director of photography: Yasutaka Nagano
Costume designer: Miho Yoshida
Editor: Tsuyoshi Wada
Music: Yasuhiko Fukuda
Sales: Free Stone Production
No rating, 105 minutes