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I Am a Hero - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2016

Horror, Action

Shinsuke Sato

Yo Oizumi
Kasumi Arimura
Masami Nagasawa
Hisashi Yoshizawa
Yoshinori Okada
Nana Katase
Jin Katagiri
Makita Sports
Muga Tsukaji
Yu Tokui
Toru Kazama

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I Am a Hero

I Am a Hero - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Hideo Suzuki (Yo Oizumi) is an unsuccessful manga artist. His sample works are constantly rejected by publishers which is why he still somehow gets by as a draftsman for a successful manga artist, even though he has already reached his thirties a while ago. His girlfriend can't endure this life any longer which is why she eventually kicks him out of their apartment. However, shortly after that she calls him with a sick voice and forgives him. When Hideo comes back home he finds his wife turned into a zombie-like creature. Only by luck he manages to escape an infection himself. His co-workers are infected, too. Hell has broken loose in Tokyo. By chance, Hideo runs into the girl Hiromi (Kasumi Arimura). They read in the internet that the virus isn't that active in the mountains. Therefore, they decide to climb Mount Fuji. Since Hideo has a gun license he believes to be well equipped for the apocalypse with his shotgun at his side. However, he is everything but a heroic character. Ultimately, the two manage to find a group of survivors who have secured themselves a good hideout. Their leader Iura (Hisashi Yoshizawa) is extremely ruthless, though, and so Hideo's potential to become a hero is in high demand...

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I Am a Hero - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Nowadays, the market is glutted with zombie movies or series. Or maybe it's just me who doesn't need any more of it. Japan also wants to get a slice of the cake, tough, since the genre's popularity is still high and ripe for collecting some money of it. Still, "I Am a Hero" doesn't just try to rake in money in a cheap fashion. Instead, a well-done manga adaption finds its way onto the big screen showing a keen sense for details, possessing all what we expect of a horror action flick. Including over-the-top violence, which was to be anticipated, however. After all, we have a shotgun-wielding hero standing in the center of events. And that shotgun has a lot of oomph behind it. Apart from that we also get a story around a hero who actually isn't one. And that he is no hero becomes extremely obvious in some scenes.

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The introduction leaves no doubt that Hideo is a dreamer. In numerous scenes we see him imagine how things would turn out if he really were a hero. Or if he tries to be one. Every nwo and then this stylistic device is also used to scare us with the consequenes for him that would result from this heroism. But Hideo steers clear of any kind of confrontation and at one point in the movie his lack of action even causes, if really thinking about it, the big bloody carnage of the showdown in the first place. But you can't really blame him for this inaction, because he simply proves in this scene that he is still human. Things look different when he doesn't help his comrade, who to be fair is somewhat ill-disposed towards him, and instead bows in a well-behaved Japanese way before leaving the other one to his fate as zombie food.

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Of course, Hideo first needs to grow before he can become a hero. And the situations that make him a hero - after all, the title already is a massive spoiler in this respect - are conclusive and make his transformation look credible. Yo Oizumi plays the film's hero not like your usual loser, meaning that there is no bad caricature of his character, which then again makes his deficits seem very human. Because of this he remains an interesting individual all the way throughout. Sadly, the same can't be said about Hiromi, played by Kasumi Arimura ("Flying Colors"), who from a certain point in the story onwards just follows the rest around apathically. Yet, she still remains somewhat of a ray of hope for Hideo and she actually is what makes him surpass himself. Even though at least at one occasion she saves his life in a most impressive way and thus stands as something like a joker in the game, which is never truely utilized.

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The initial outbreak of the virus is captured quite impressively. The special effects surely don't need to hide behind more expensive productions and the amount of extras or zombies is surely impressive. It's simply that we have already seen the scenery of malls and parking garages full of zombies one time too many. Accordingly, a lot of stuff in "I Am a Hero" feels all too familiar. However, where we do get an alernation of the subject ist when it comes to the zombies themselves. Their different deformations bring some nice variety into the movie and the fact that they aren't completely dead mentally, but fall back into their childhood - which leads to some well done slapstick moments like a zombie crying for his mommy - or turn to old routines gives the picture a special flair and once again underlines the zombie motive as a metaphor for our monotonous everyday life.

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The supporting characters all turn out quite shallow, this also concerns the nurse, given a face by Masami Nagasawa ("Our Little Sister"), and the antagonist. The first 45 minutes still fly by like an arrow. After that the pacing drops unnecessarily and the film goes seemingly nowhere. With its 126 minutes the movie thus would have deserved a few cuts. Still, the finale makes up for everything. The movie is quite violent all throughout, but towards the end we get a true shotgun carnage which is an over-the-top, but not unintentionally funny (!) rollercoaster ride. Director Shinsuke Sato has also been responsible for the manga adaption of "Gantz", but this time he certainly delivers a better piece of work and even makes the manga by Kengo Hanazawa easily accessable for those who otherwise don't care about mangas. The bottom line: "I Am a Hero" is an entertaining zombie movie with outstanding physical special effects and a great, crazy showdown.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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