'Mozu the Movie': Tokyo Review

MOZU Still - H 2015
Courtesy of Tokyo International Film Festival

MOZU Still - H 2015

The sloppy sewing together of highlights from a hit Japanese TV series.

A disillusioned young cop fights a criminal mastermind.

The Japanese police actioner of the moment, which earned a place in the Tokyo festival’s Special Screenings sidebar, is Mozu the Movie, a sporadically entertaining divertissement too narratively jumbled to make much sense. Apparently, in the producers’ rush to cash in on a 15-episode hit TV series, which was itself based on a popular book franchise by Go Ohsaka, logic was the least of their concerns. It remains a local product for young Mozu fans, who are presumably well-versed in the story and will have no problem filling in the plot blanks. Everyone else can stay home.

Midas-touch hit-making director Eiichiro Hasumi’s object seems to be packing the most exciting action scenes into the space of two hours, and in this at least Mozu does a decent job. Nothing as stylish or clever as a Johnnie To cop basher, to be sure, but some fast-moving action and mysteries that, alas, get only partially explained. Inspector Kukaki (a super-cool Hidetoshi Nishijima) is a good-looking young detective driven to drink and demotivated after the death of his wife and daughter. As luck would have it, he’s in the vicinity when a drugged terrorist punk and his lethal gang kidnap Elena, a 16-year-old autistic girl, as she is on her way to her embassy with her mother. This occurs shortly after the scary punk has terrorized an entire office building, shooting workers and blowing things up, before the gang makes its escape on jet belts.

Ex-cop Ohsugi (Teruyuki Kagawa), who has resigned from the force to become a bumbling private eye, tries to hide Elena from her pursuers, but his own daughter gets kidnapped in the process. So does the smart, beautiful young police chief Higashi who was worried about Inspector Kukaki. Now he is worried about her, so he and Ohsugi fly to a teeming Asian fleshpot where small children are being held hostage by brutes. Organizing the evil operation is the man behind every political conspiracy and economic scandal since WWII, a faceless nemesis alternately known as Mozu or Daruma, and who eventually has the face of Japan’s favorite gangster actor, Beat Takeshi, a.k.a. Takeshi Kitano.

It’s all an absurd excuse to string together action scenes, which include sadistic bottle cap torture, twins battling to the death with ice picks, escape from a rooftop ring of fire and a not-bad street chase involving our hero being viciously tortured in the back of a truck while another gang fire missiles at it.

Tech work is perfunctory.

Production companies: TBS Pictures, Wowow Films
Cast:  Beat Takeshi, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yoko Maki
Director: Eiichiro Hasumi
Screenwriter: Kosuke Nishi based on a book by Go Ohsaka
Producers: Mamoru Inoue, Akira Morii, Shin'ya Watanabe
Executive producers: Takashi Hirano, Takehito Aoki
Director of photography: Tomoo Ezaki
Production designer: Takeyuki Kitaya
Editor: Mitsuo Nishio
Music: Yoshitaka Fujimura 
No rating, 115  minutes