Detroit Metal City -- Film Review

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HONG KONG -- "Detroit Metal City" is director Toshio Lee's attempt to make a zany comedy about a death metal band singer who's secretly a J-pop idol wannabe. However, the jokes extracted from his Jekyll & Hyde existence are only sporadically funny. The appearance of Kiss frontman Gene Simmons lends the film some cred, but as band spoofs go, "DMC" comes nowhere near the legendary "This Is Spinal Tap" in capturing the zeitgeist of this overblown music scene.

Real-life heavy metal head-bangers may prefer to be seen dead than buy tickets to see this tame send-up of their own excesses. Not that distributor Toho cares, since it aimed for fan girls of leading man Kenichi Matsuyama and fan boys of the original manga. "DMC" rocked in Japan, played at Toronto Midnight Madness section and roars noisily into ancillary.

Simmons figures that people get into rock 'n' roll for girls, fame and money, but Negishi (Matsuyama) is an exception. Though he has a lucrative cult following, it is the groin kicks and death threats of his female manager that keeps him chained to his job as lead singer of Detroit Metal City.

A fey and ditzy farm boy from Oita, Negishi gets booed singing his own mushy, '80s-style songs. Undiscouraged, he makes a demo CD but sends it to the wrong label, then gets signed to hiss and howl behind the cadaverous complexion of band persona Sir Krausner II. The girl he pines for likes the world pretty and pastel, so he keeps this job a secret. When death-metal royalty Jack II D (Simmons) challenges DMC on his Japan tour, Negishi must make a stand -- or a confession.

The director lays on the parody of heavy metal with the bluntness of a pile driver. Mock lyrics like "I'm a mother rapist" and "I killed my girlfriend" are funny at first but get repeated with grating monotony.

Matsuyama's mannerisms are cute as a button as the soppy dud with a pudding bowl haircut. Yet, beyond quick changes of facial expressions from Satanic spasms to fawning smiles, neither identity stretches his acting ability.

In depicting Negishi's dilemma, the film broaches the existential question that no career counselor can answer. Is it better to do what one's good at or what one enjoys? The protagonists, and the film itself, remain schizoid about this until the end.

Production: Toho Co. Ltd.

Cast: Kenichi Matsuyama, Rosa Kato, Gene Simmons, Yasuko Matsuyuki
Director: Toshio Lee
Screenwriter: Mika Omori
Based on the manga by Kiminori Wakasugi
Executive producer: Genki Kawamura
Producer: Yuka Higuchi
Director of photography: Koichi Nakayama
Production designer: Norifumi Nakayama
Music: Takayuki Hattori
Costume designer: Sayaka Takahashi.
Editor: Takuya Taguchi
Sales: Toho Co. Ltd.
No rating, 103 minutes