Enjoyable action-comedy that is a showcase for talented Takeda Tetsuya...
Watanabe Yusuke's funny and surprisingly touching "Keiji Monogatari" (A
Detective's Story) is an enjoyable action comedy that succeeds on the
strength of lead actor, Takada Tetsuya's likability and charm. He makes
for an unlikely action hero and displays some impressive martial arts
skills (even if played for laughs).
Takeda Tetsuya is probably best known for his beloved role as earnest
and dedicated teacher Sakamoto Kimpachi from the long running family
drama series "San Nen 'B' Gumi Kimpachi Sensei" (Teacher Kimpachi of
Junior High Classroom B). Trained as an educator prior to becoming an
actor, the series made Takada a TV icon in Japan and also type-casted
him into the understanding, sympathetic and fatherly character he often
is cast as...a lovable loser with a heart of gold who understands and
relates to the concerns of Japanese youth. Takada's easygoing manner
and gentle spirit carried over to his subsequent dramas (including the
wonderful "101 Kai Me No Propose" and is also reflective in his music
including "Kimpachi's" theme song "Okuru Kotoba" (Words of Wisdom)
which he sang with his folk group "Kaentai".
"Keiji Monogatari" was one of the first of his big screen films that
attempted to change his image (albeit slightly). He is still the
sympathetic, bumbling loser with a heart of gold but now he is gentle
police detective Katayama Hajime, a rural cop who seems to be more at
ease counseling underage prostitutes than analyzing crime scenes. You
might say he's like Columbo but unfortunately without the sharp
analytic skills. What he does have however is wicked fighting skills
that he displays when pushed to the breaking point or when facing
hateful criminals and Yakuza scum. In fact part of the joy of "Keiji
Monogatari" and its sequels is seeing Takeda (who bulked up and
received Martial Arts training for the role) showing off his dexterity
and improvisational skills as he takes ordinary household object and
makes them into fighting weapons - hangers, wet towels, broom sticks
etc.) Taking his cue from Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung, Takeda is
absolutely hilarious as he punches and kicks his way through waves of
criminals. Very much like the "Tora-san series", detective Katayama is
transferred from one police station to another across Japan, meeting up
with various beautiful "madonnas", falling in love only to lose the
girl in various situations.
"Keiji Monogatari" begins with detective Katayama in his native Hakata,
Fukuoka Prefecture busting in on an illegal "Turko" (Soap Land)
establishment. He meets up with beautiful Hisako (first time actress
Ariga Hisayo) who is deaf and was forced into this position to survive.
Taking pity on the orphaned young girl, whom he decides to act as her
temporary guardian. He takes her to Hiroshima Prefecture where he is
transferred to and where coincidently the "Turko's" Yakuza backed
owners are based. It is here that Katayama uncovers an even more darker
prostitution ring that kidnaps and "rents" out ordinary girls to
wealthy clients (operating out of a legitimate dry cleaning operation)
Hisayo also encounters a kindred spirit in another deaf individual (the
wonderful Tanaka Kunie) who she soon falls in love with.
Takeda is one of the few movie stars that can carry an entire movie and
he does so effortlessly here. Takeda is supported in his efforts by an
all-star cast of recognizable faces including Kobayashi Akiji
(Ultraman, Kamen Rider), Kiki Kirin (Returner, Inochi), Nishida
Toshiyuki (Tsuribaka Nisshi series) and Kusunagi Kojiro (Be-Bop High
School, W No Higeki) who all put in great performances. Even the great
Takakura Ken makes a cameo as Takeda's replacement.
Watanabe Yusuke's direction is good but it is star Takeda's engaging
screenplay that is the biggest surprise. Wonderfully written which
balances melodrama and action quite well. If one flaw can be identified
it is with Ariga's performance that while fairly good and admirable
(she is not deaf) does fall a bit short (it is said that Ariga herself
stated that she didn't like her performance and left acting shortly
after completing this film).
Just recently released to DVD, this is a true gem that most certainly
deserves a look (why it took so long is anyone's guess).
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