Vexille

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Locarno International Film Festival

LOCARNO, Switzerland -- Robots are threatening the world in Fumihiko Sori's enjoyable Japanese anime romp "Vexille," and they're even more dangerous when they become useless piles of junk mashed up in swirling twisters of scything metal teeth called Jags.

Digital Domain veteran Sori, whose first directing job was "Ping Pong," and Haruka Handa ("Appleseed") have scripted a CG animation film full of furious action as a team of uncommonly well-equipped soldiers goes to war with the androids. Anime is an acquired taste but fans will surely respond to the picture's dynamite energy. Those not already in the fold will find this one very easy to take.

It's 2077, and Japan has become a renegade nation closed to the rest of the world. Shielded from penetration by air, sea and space for 10 years, the island nation has become a dangerous mystery to the United Nations. The country's isolation resulted when it fell out with other countries over the development of robotics and its determination to continue creating them even when they were banned everywhere else.

The fear is that Daiwa Heavy Industries in Tokyo has taken its creation of human androids to extremes so the only answer is to send in a crack team of fighters to hook up with Japanese underground rebels and find out what's going on. Enter Vexille, a GI Jane and then some, whose squad uses ultra-high-tech uniforms, weapons and vehicles to rocket into battle.

It's silly fun, simplistic in its heroes and villains and sentimental in its message. British mixer Paul Oakenfold's pounding original music and tracks from such as Basement Jaxx, MIA and the Prodigy help muster the proceedings, blending well with Koji Kasamatsu's industrial sound design.

Using Japanese voices for the American characters is a bit disorienting for non-Japanese, especially as the sub-titles fairly zip along and sometimes it's hard to tell which bits of death-dealing weaponry are working for the good guys or the bad guys.

But the weapons are terrific and the CG action, which is almost constant, is inventive and cleverly thought through. In close-up, the characters are bland and washed out but once the bullets start whizzing the frame is filled with live-wire entertainment. And those vicious tornadoes of crunching jagged edges are something to see.

VEXILLE
Shochiku presents an Oxybot production
Credits:
Director: Fumihiko Sori
Writers: Haruka Handa, Fumihiko Sori
Producers: Toshiaki Nakazawa, Yumiko Yoshihara, Ichiro Takese
Production designer: Toru Hishiyama
Music: Paul Oakenfold
Editor: Fumihiko Sori
Cast:
Vexille: Meisa Kuroki
Leon: Shosuke Tanhiara
Maria: Yasuko Matsuyuki
Ryo: Takahiro Sakurai
Takashi: Tetsua Kakihara
Mr. Saito: Akio Otsuka
Mr. Kisaragi: Toshiyuki Morikawa
Running time -- 109 minutes
No MPAA rating
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