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Original Title:
Samehada otoko to momojiri onna

Japan 1998

Comedy, Crime, Drama

Katsuhito Ishii

Tadanobu Asano
Sie Kohinata
Ittoku Kishibe
Susumu Terajima
Kimie Shingy˘ji
Shingo Tsurumi
Daigaku Sekine
K˘ Takasugi
Hitoshi Kiyokawa
Shingoro Yamada

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Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl

Story: After he stole money from the yakuza former gangster Sameheda (Tadanobu Asano) is on the run. His former boss and numerous of the boss' men are after him. Sameheda's friend Sawada (Susumu Terashima) is under especially high pressure and so he wants to do everything in his power to find Sameheda before the others do. When the yakuza has almost captured Sameheda the young girl Toshiko (Sie Kohinata) by accident drives her car into the one of the gangsters and saves Sameheda. Toshiko is on the run herself. She tries to escape the grasp of her uncle for whom she worked at a hotel. The girl decides to escape her life with Sameheda. However, the two aren't just chased after by the yakuza but also by a contract killer hired by Toshiko's uncle whose job is to eliminate the new man at her side and bring her back to him. The breakneck escape becomes more and more dangerous, but luck seems to be on the former gangster's and Toshiko's side. Although not for long...

Review: There are movies that you constantly come across, be it because they are highly regarded by critics or because of their extraordinary movie title. "Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl" naturally belongs to the latter category. Although the film might have found many fans most critics weren't so lenient, and rightly so. This wacky crime-drama might score with an interesting technical adaption, but even in this respect it turns out that not everything is as original as it might seem at first glance. More than anything else it becomes apparent that not every idea works out as well as it might have been intended. Furthermore, the story isn't something you haven't seen somewhere else before.

The beginning of the movie throws us right into the events and at first leaves us in the dark about what's actually going on. The opening credits are then creating the impression that we are about to get a way more fast-paced movie than we actually do. Considering the style you instantly believe to be part of a piece of work from Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie, but we are soon proven wrong. The dialogues surely aren't that smart and we don't care about the characters at any time either. That doesn't mean that "Shark Skin Man" can't be entertaining to some extent. A few scenes prove to be quite funny but all in all it's more than anything else the leisure pacing that's annoying.

On several occasions we get to know about the hobbies of the individual gangsters and when the film a little bit later during a completey different occasion returns to those individuals they are again talking about their favorite topics. Somehow this in fact gives them some more color as do the inventive suits and hair-cuts, but all in all this isn't enough to build an emotional relationship to the viewer. This becomes especially apparent when quite a bunch of them bite the dust eventually. In that respect the film is pretty unceremonious which also stands as one of its strengths because thanks to this unpredictability of the plot there is a certain tension lying in the air.

Tadanobu Asano takes on the leading role and with his rather subtle acting he cuts a fine figure but neither he nor his female movie partner can win over the audience's simpathy with their roles. Their personalities remain too shallow for that. Strangely enough it looks different when it comes to the yakuza. Some of them seem to be quite interesting, nonetheless they always remain supporting characters. The amateurish contract killer also belongs to that sort of character. In technical respects there are at least some flashbacks and dream sequences that can deliver some diversion. Apart from that the film oftentimes treads water because of its minimalistic story.

In his debut work Katsuhito Ishii ("The Taste of Tea") can't fully convince, but he shows that he has some potential. However, to often his pictures look like taken right out of a music video. Contrary to that there are repeteadly some very lengthy shots as well. Interesting or rather ballsy are the scenes in which Ishii passes on showing some action but instead tells the action in a very condensed fashion using only a few pictures. You may feel betrayed a bit as a viewer, but it's something different that you don't get to see every day. The biggest flaw of "Shark Skin Man" is that is tries to look cooler than it actually is, though. An interesting movie that without a doubt is also overrated by many people.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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