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Japan 2009


Hitoshi Iwamoto

Hiroshi Tamaki
Takayuki Yamada
Ryo Ishibashi
Yuriko Ishida
Kazuaki Hankai
Toru Kazama
Natsuki Obama
Ikuji Nakamura
Ken Streutker
David Starzyk

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Story: 16 years ago Yuki (Hiroshi Tamaki) and Garai (Takayuki Yamada) almost became victim of a cruel cleanup operation. On the island they were living secret experiments have been conducted with the nerve gas MW until one day a leak was responsible for killing almost the entire population of the small island. Those who survived were executed by the government, only the little boys Yuki and Garai managed to escape. Today, Garai is a priest and searches for consolation in God while Yuki seeks revenge for the atrocities of the government. He hunts down the ones responsible one after another and finishes them off. He also doesn't refrain from killing innocents in the process. Garai knows about the actions of his friend, but he can't turn in him to the police because their past created a strong bond between the two and moreover Yuki also saved his life back then.
While reporter Kyoko (Yuriko Ishida) slowly starts to unravel the truth behind the nerve gas MW and the murder cases that are connected to it the lead investigator of the police Sawaki (Ryo Ishibashi) also gets a hot lead. For Yuki things start to get serious, but he also finds out that there is still a secret stock of MW and he now wants to get his hands on it.

Review: At first glance "MW" seems to be a promising thriller. The story offers a lot of side plots and characters and with this a good fundament for an exciting thriller could have been created. Unfortunately, the film has cut back a lot concerning the adaption of the characters and the story of the original manga. This leads to the problem that the individual characters look pretty one-dimensional, the story is presented a bit bumpy and furthermore is also full of plot holes, of course. That is something apparent all the way through the movie so that the lacking elaboration of the characters lead to some serious problems with building up tension. We simply don't care that Yuki is actually a tragical individual, it's also eluding us what Garai is doing in the movie as his passiveness harms the film and the supporting characters remain as unspectacular, maybe apart from Sawaki, the only one on the good side we actually can somewhat relate to. "MW" is therefore not only a disappointment for fans of the original manga.

The original manga already goes some time back. At the end of the 70s no less than Osamu Tezuka created the story around two friends that are connected by a lot more than what we get to see in the adaption of scriptwriter Tetsuya Oishi. Tetsuya is actually no newbie in this field. He already revised "Death Note" and "Beck" for the big screen, but this time he obviously let the characters fall by the wayside. A little bit of research let me find out that Yuki in fact wasn't the cold-natured, always callous mad killer in the original story the way we get to see him here as if being the villian of an american B-movie. Yuki was at every time characterized by a trace of childishness that stood in stark contrast to his cruel actions. The madness that was the result of him breathing in MW as a child isn't to be found anywhere here. Yuki is simply a cold-blooded calculating killer and terrorist with some hatred towards the whole world.

It gets even more interesting when it comes to Garai. Takayuki Yamada ("13 Assassins", "Train Man") plays his role with some inner conflict that we can't understand at all. It's not clear why he didn't hand Yuki over to the police right from the start. His bond to Yuki only seems to be founded on their shared childhood, but that they are really friends isn't to be seen at any point of time. In fact the two were even having a homosexual relationship in the original story! Ok, it isn't tragical that this part didn't make it in the movie if there had been some other attempts to make it clear that the two gave each other strength during difficult times. Instead Garai looks incredibly passive even to the degree that we almost forget that he is playing a part in the movie at all. This is even the more strange as we constantly get the impression that his character should have played a more major part. If he at least would have remained passive until the very end we could have somehow accepted this as his character flaw, but in the end when it's already too late, actually, he naturally tries to become a hero...

Although the story is a bit convoluted and therefore has something episode-like to it, which shouldn't be a suprise with regard to the original material, it is still very easy to follow the plot. A lot of plot holes are interfering with the entertainment value, though. Why does the reporter take Yuki and Garai with her on the island she thinks the nerve gas could be on? Why is Garai letting her accompany them even though he knows that Yuki most likely will kill her after that? And even worse: How does Yuki manage to conquer an american military base single-handedly? That he managed to do that is simply thrown into the movie, but it destroys any possible credibility left.
Garai wants to repent for himself and Yuki, what goes on within him remains invisible to us, though. It's the same with the actual motives of Yuki. There is no drama piling up, not even in the scenes in which surprisingly some supporting charakters die. This underlines even more the numerous flaws of the movie.

"MW" thus remains simple B-movie entertainment the kind of you can see coming out of America alot. The nice soundtrack by Yoshihiro Ike, who also worked for animes like "Ergo Proxy" or "Blood: The Last Vampire" can't change anything about it either. Because of it we even realize once more that some scenes were supposed to be thrilling, but simply aren't. If it weren't for the well-done introduction and the acceptable ending that makes a sequel seem possible (although we wouldn't mind if there won't be one) there wouldn't be much that could make you sit 130 minutes in front of your screen. Sawaki as the only person the viewer can relate to remains a supporting character and so director Hitoshi Iwamoto (who actually directed the outstanding TV-series "Nobuta wo Produce") should have focused more on the ambiguity of the main characters in order to be able to draw a richer picture of the dramatical background of the two tragical main characters. You don't necessarily need to spare some time for mass-productions like this.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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