Shield of Straw (2013) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
14 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Saw it on opening night!
ebossert30 April 2013
Shield of Straw (2013) (Japanese Thriller)

Viewed on April 26th, 2013 at Shinuku Piccadilly Cinema in Tokyo, Japan. No subtitles.

After a young girl is murdered, the grandfather publicly issues a $10 million bounty on the head of the prime suspect (an already convicted rapist/murderer played by Tatsuya Fujiwara). An idealistic cop (Takao Osawa) is assigned the protect and transport the suspect despite the repeated assassination attempts. This film by Takashi Miike is absorbing and pushes the protagonist's ideals to the limit, especially considering how the suspect is obviously a homicidal maniac whose protection endangers the lives of both police officers and citizens. As the bodycount of innocent deaths rise, it becomes more and more difficult to justify the suspects' protection. There are a few good action moments to enjoy, but the tension is expressed more so in the threat than the actual violence itself.

One thing I would like to point out is with regard to the performances by both lead actors, which are very strong. This is a bit surprising given their histories. I would not personally classify Tatsuya Fujiwara as a "great" actor, and he does not belong in the same ranks as other Japanese stars like Hiroshi Abe and Koji Yakusho. That said, he has definitely grown on me over the past few years with his performances in "Parade" (2009) and now this film. I see him building a respectable career into the future. Then there's Takao Osawa, a man who has had his fair share of cartoonish and/or stiff performances. But here he turns in the best performance of his career, and actually carries the film on his shoulders from start to finish. Ironically, I also recently saw him give a good performance in "Strawberry Night" (2012), so he is also growing on me.

Miike's direction is impressive as always. He represents a great example of a once cult director who has retained his filmmaking qualities despite turning to mainstream projects. In fact, I'd say that his "hit or miss" career has actually grown more consistent in recent years. Fans should see "Shield of Straw" as soon as possible.

P.S. - This film was apparently panned at the Cannes Film Festival, which is not much of a surprise since it's probably the most "commercial" film in competition.
18 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Master-filmmaker Miike goes deep. Never felt so good watching his work.
killahdelfin2 December 2013
Shield of Straw probably is Miike's most humane and ''deep''-film. After watching it you will think about it for hours.

Does it place a mirror in front of our politically-correct pseudo-''good mind'' society and say : ''Look how absurd and self-righteous you are!'' Does it show us a true modern hero -Mirari ? One who stayed true to his principles when other were driven by greed and weakness? Does it examine the psychology of ''our money is everything'' mindset? Almost limitless food for thought. And that s what makes a film excellent. Not to mention the good as always story , acting , cinematography , soundtrack , etc. Some say Miike went mainstream with his film- wrong! Sorry for you-better watch Transformers then.

After watching it you will think about it for hours. As always the master filmmaker knows how to grip the viewer and no letting loose. Unique , gripping , provocative...and good. Watching Miike ,known for his bizarre and brutal films, never felt so right. 8/10 Drama Miike-style.
13 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Philosophical drama dialogues meet a brutal action-thriller ride
kluseba24 July 2014
"Wara no Tate" or "Shield of Straw" is a Japanese action-thriller and drama based on a novel by Kiuchi Kazuhiro. This movie convinces with a balanced mixture of brutal and gripping action sequences on one side and philosophical discussions on the other. It tells the intriguing tale of a disgusting psychopath who needs an ambitious police escort to get transported from a rural town to the capital Tokyo where he should be sentenced by a public prosecutor. The grand-father of the psychopath's latest victim, who is terminally ill with a heart disease, wants the man to get killed at all costs. He bribes editors and reporters to announce that the billionaire is willing to offer one billion yen to anyone who would kill the psychopath and then turn her- or himself in to the police and prosecutor to get judged for her or his actions. The vengeful billionaire goes even further and bribes criminals, nurses and even police officers to get the psychopath killed. Five courageous police officers get the dangerous job to get the psychopath to Tokyo via transporters, trains and even cars as they have to face one hundred twenty-five Million potential opponents. Soon, their conscience come into play. Is it worth to risk your lives to save a monster that is probably going to get sentenced to death anyway? Are their accuracy, honour and sense of responsibility strong enough to bring their job to an end? And is there even a traitor within the small group who wants to get the Money and help the billionaire to get his worst enemy killed? "Wara no Tate" is not only an entertaining but also thought-provoking piece of art that works very well despite a few minor lengths during a running time of over two hours. The question the viewer is constantly asking her- or himself is: Would I hand the psychopath over to the prosecutor or would I kill him, get the hefty reward and go to jail? This movie is clearly above average not only due to its balanced mixture of profound dramatic elements and vivid action sequences but also due to many excellent actors. From the honest police officers and the scary psychopath over the sick and grieving old man and many potential headhunters, every single actress and actor does an excellent job no matter if his or her screening time is about two hours or just two minutes. The different characters are profound, diversified and credible and many of them develop in an interesting way throughout the movie. The greatest actresses and actors are the intelligent female cop and single mother portrayed by Matsushima Nanako, the desperate and lonely police officer with a strong will portrayed by Ohsawa Takao and especially the wicked psychopath portrayed by Fujiwara Tatsuya. The psychopath gets more and more evil as the movie progresses and especially the last sequences show us the abyss of the human soul. On my list of the most evil characters in cinema, I would place him third just behind the sinister serial killer Kyung-chul portrayed by Choi Min-sik in the Korean psycho-thriller "I Saw The Devil" and the evil spirit Bob portrayed by Frank Silva in the "Twin Peaks" series and movie.

Apart of the balanced storyline and the acting performances, Japanese cult director Miike Takashi did one of his most memorable works in recent years. The images, setting and special effects are well employed and feel real and spontaneous yet wisely arranged and chosen. There are neither shaky camera passages as in many Hollywood movies nor an overload of predictable and stereotypical visual effects. Miike proves once again that he is one of the best current directors and he took advantage of a decent budget and excellent cinematographers involved in this project.

The only reasons why somebody could not like this movie is because of its mixture of philosophical dialogues and grisly action sequences. Action fans might get bored by the dialogues while fans of more sophisticated dramas might find the movie too repugnant for its violent content. Any open-minded cinephile with a soft spot for Japanese extremes should though watch this high-quality movie that gets easily in my top twenty of the best movies of the year. It's a shame that there were only three people in the cinema when I watched this film as this movie is definitely better than many of the exchangeable Hollywood sequels where you exactly know what to expect.
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Oh my, what a picnic
Bantam10 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Being a fan of Miike flicks, I was rather looking forward to that one. The premise sounded rather intriguing: 120 million potential enemies and a handful of cops. 'Smoking Aces' came to mind, but if Miike directs it...

I was rather surprised by the first half of the movie, it looked like it could really live up to my expectations. Unfortunately the second half goes places I did not expect - and the ending is, IMO, a total disaster.

Seriously, the same man who directed cinematic awesomeness like '13 Assassins', 'Ichimei', 'Sukiyaki Western Django', 'IZO' and, heck, 'Zebraman' comes up with this? To be fair, he tried to place some emphasis on the characters and their motivations, but that want all sideways.

At times the logic in this movies is beyond me, same goes for some decisions made by some of the characters. As well as those "coincidences" (like the one near the end where they find a car, who's driver is *wait for it* the father of the murder's first victim). Meh.

While the last stand-off had real potential (may I direct your attention to the sword in the cane), it goes all mushy and does not fit the rest of the movie.

All in all, I am rather disappointed by that one. I will, however, check out other of his movies, and see if that is just a one time glitch by the maestro or if he's losing it.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Comment not a review
grahamcarter-131 August 2018
Enjoyed it! Straight forward (for a Miike film). It would be a great double bill with Clint Eastwood's 1977 flick The Gauntlet. It is very close in plot and theme with The Gauntlet, which I've found to be an overlooked title that, although a then contemporary cop drama it could have been a spaghetti western (not surprising considering Eastwood's origins with the spaghetti and it's links to samurai films). Becomes much darker as it becomes more personal than political in comparison to The Gauntlet; however I think that paints an adequate picture of Shield Of Straw. Check it out!
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Japanese movie that you have to see
alshwenbear19 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Even though the premise is kind of the same as "S.W.A.T. (2003)" and after watching the final scene of "Drug War" (2012) from China, where I felt that I wasted my time and was cheated; "Shield of Straw" was different. First, it will get the best of your curiosity, then it will become absorbent of your own feelings and moral values. And If you become so involved with the movie (as I do sometimes), you may be wanting to kill "Kiyomaru" even if you don't get the billion, let's make three billion (if the subtitles where accurate). And here is where I see one of the flaws, because we know that one way or another "Kiyomaru" won't live to enjoy his psychotic killer instinct toward innocent lives.

A movie critic argued that the billionaire "Ninagawa", "should have been arrested straight away", but that would have been more unsatisfactory than the convoluted ending; besides let's not forget that the money was spinning heads left and right! Cops from all levels were involved, mobs, bystanders, and anyone willing to help in murdering the bad guy.

The movie certainly has plot holes but it doesn't intend in any way to be remembered for being smart, and if you disregard logic a little bit, it will get your attention for its acting and pace and because it has the elements that "S.W.A.T" never had even with the frenetic shootings, explosions, and car chases.

I understand that opinions will be divided, and I don't believe that anyone will come with the perfect way to end this film, because irony is just a big part of it.

Overall,this Japanese film delivers and entertains and I would certainly recommend it, after that is up to you to hate or like my opinion or the film.
5 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Classic story well made
defmore894 February 2014
Just watched it, it was OK, most of the actors I know from previous miike movies and I like em.

The Idea of the movie is to show 2 polar opposites, the unwavering good protecting the irredeemable evil. And the whole time while you watch the movie you gonna ask yourself; how far would you go? Would you kill someone for money? Would you protect a child murderer? Those questions keep becoming harder as you learn more about the crimes he committed and the temptation of money growing and growing.

Oh well, why doesn't Batman just kill the Joker and be done with it; that pretty much sums up the movie.
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Although Intense, and Initially Exciting, Shield of Straw's Lengthy Plot Could Have been Fine-tuned with Further Depth
totalovrdose17 June 2015
Director Takashi Miike is renown for developing films that thrust the characters into life threatening situations, whilst dealing with issues concerning basic human tendencies, often accentuated to graphic levels, guaranteed to provoke conversations between some people, and sheer unnerving suspense amongst others. Shield of Straw is no different, asking its audience questions regarding the differences between vengeance and justice, while positioning viewers to contemplate how far they would go to protect a monstrously psychopathic individual, depicting society in general as a collection of individuals, who, upon the promise of economical gratification, are willing to inexplicably forgo moral conventions.

These questions and ideas are forced upon the viewer by character Takaoki Ninagawa (Tsutomu Yamazaki), one of the richest, and at the same time, oldest, men in the country. The murder of his seven year old granddaughter at the hands of Kunihide Kiyomaru (Tatsuya Fukiwara), who had only recently been released from prison for a previous crime at the time of the incident, causes him to take matters into his own hands three months later, after police appear unable to apprehend Kiyomaru, who is currently on the run. The promise of one billion yen to whomever kills Kiyomaru causes a triumphant chain reaction, that leads the murderer to surrender himself over to police custody, upon realization he is unable to protect himself.

Kazuki Mekari (Takao Osawa), a member of the security police, who we discover early into the movie is still coming to terms with the loss of his wife, a back-story that is conveyed during the film, is hired by section-chief Ooki (Hiroatro Honda) to escort Kiyomaru to Tokyo police, where he will be released into the custody of the prosecution. Those also brought on to assist in escorting the criminal include fellow security police member and single mother Atsuko Shiraiwa (Nanako Matsushima), Takeshi Okumura (Goro Kishitani), Kenji Sekiya (Masato Ibu) and Masataka Kanbashi (Kento Nagayama). Early into the film, the threat posed by the police force themselves is powerfully executed, those providing protection to the murderer continuously suspecting one another of betrayal, and despite money initially been the cause for such worry, later, themes including honor, personal values, vengeance, and doing what is morally right, begin to plague those involved.

Although the film presents viewers with the quandary, who are we to trust if the police themselves are criminal, Kiyomaru is far from a sympathetic character, his behavior, and complete lack of empathy, making him a narcissistic villain that causes even the audience to wonder whether protecting such a vile criminal is worth it. At the same time, Ninagawa is equally complicit as a villain, his actions causing a significant number of casualties that he himself appears unaffected by. On a side note, though the formalities of Japanese culture are well imbedded into the feature, this viewer was occasionally left wondering if characters with blackened hearts truly deserved the respect they were given, a question additional viewers may ponder.

Moving on, the movie begins with such intensity, which is especially due to the visual flare, including a massive assortment of police vehicles escorting the prisoner, alongside another scene involving a truck, barreling at high speeds towards the lead characters, a mixture of gun fights and an explosion that can only be described as outstanding, grabbing hold of the viewer's attention. The idea of having 125 million possible suspects out to assassinate the antagonist makes for a thrillingly anxious climate, whereby the threat could appear from anywhere, this notion being continuously attended to over the feature's duration. Where the introduction seemed to have an over-reliance on filling the screen with vivid entertainment, as the film progresses, more isolated environments begin to suspend the viewer in a very different atmosphere, the intensity of dialogue between characters as themes concerning greed, corruption and death begin to swell to almost cataclysmic levels mean the actors, rather than the affects, attend to the atmosphere.

Environments, from sprawling metropolis, outer city developments, to countryside roads, make for a variety of locations, the soundtrack adding to this, immersing the audience in either the excitement, or the gripping character drama, though at the same time, the scenes where only the diegetic ambiance can be felt, are equally intense. On other occasions, the soundtrack appears to become too impacting, the orchestral themes gradually becoming louder, signifying a thunderous event, that never actually occurs.

Although originally excitingly fast, the slower pace towards the end is potentially less effective, despite the tension remaining satisfactorily convincing, however, the initially surprising atmosphere, where threats could come from anywhere, begins to instead be replaced with a slight degree of predictability, as the number of threats begin to increasingly narrow. The ending will no doubt cause audiences to question if justice really is dealt, and though the film efficaciously grapples with viewer's emotions, it is uncertain if sadness or anger was the intended feeling Mr Miike wanted to garner.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
More Mainstream Miike, But None The Less Enjoyable
TheFilmGuy16 December 2013
Comparing this film to some of Miike's other films (such as Ichi The Killer or Fudoh), you can tell he's going for a more mainstream style here. The film revolves around a team of police officers (or Security Police as they're referenced as) who are tasked with the job of protecting a murder with a one billion Yen bounty on his head. I loved this concept (which is reminiscent of S.W.A.T's storyline) and it got me invested in the story. The idea of all of Japan having their eyes on one man was extremely interesting and gave major tension to the film. You never knew who was going to try to claim that bounty and at what time. I did have some gripes with the film, such as Nanako Matsushima's character constantly threatening Kiyomaru and then suddenly saying she was testing them, but overall I had a fun time with this. Don't go into the film expecting Miikes' usual bloody and twisted style, but instead a more mainstream and entertaining film with a little bit of thought to it.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This story was about human's justice.
Aoi_kdr13 July 2019
A security police and his team convoyed a sex offender for little girls who raped them and killed after that. A reword of a billion yen, about nine millon dollars in US dollars, was set on his head. There were some complexed thoughts. Some people thought they should kill him because he was crazy and they would be able to get huge money. In other side, some members of security police were confused by their own justice. Should they protect him even if he was the worst and such a terrible man? Also he exploited his position and sniggered. I didn't see where justice was.

Inpite of struggling to convoy him, he talked to them like he wanted to piss them off. I liked Tatsuya Fujiwara with the vulgarity.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
yankeedoo15 April 2019
Watched it a few times good movie. Hopefully the USA remake be ok too
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
6.3??? Are you effing kidding me??
abdoul-lateef19 May 2014
I don't know who the heck gave this movie such low ratings but their judgments are way off!! This should at least have an 8, so far the best thriller I've seen in a long time. I mean The Avengers has 8.1 and if you have some gray cells left, you'll know how terrible marvel movies can be. This on the other hand amazing acting, suspense, drama, soundtrack, story. I mean sure it had some minor plot holes but no movie is perfect and it definitely didn't take away from the experience of being immersed in the movie. The protagonists are literally thrown into chaos as we witness their struggles and ultimately how they cope to stay moral and survive this crazy mission. Trust me, there will be times where you as a viewer will put your morals to the test and thats what makes this movie so great, it really engages the viewer and makes them wonder what they'd do in their shoes? Overall I really enjoyed watching this movie from start to finish where there's never a dull moment.
3 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Miike Takashi at his very best
searchanddestroy-128 September 2015
I watched only a few of his other features including ICHI THE KILLER, and the least I can say is that it was quite different if you compare with this one. The others were rather weird, crazy, sometimes tongue in cheek, but very good in their ways. This one is far better for my own opinion and closer to a classical way of filming, although remaining very very dark and depressing. I say it's a masterpiece, close to what the Korean film industry may give us so often these last years. it's an action movie whilst being an emotion film. You have poignant, gripping sequences here, with a powerful acting too. And some scenes, in their way of filming, camera angles, reminded me some Jean-Pierre Melville's features. Miike Takashi has already said over and over that Melville was one of his master.

I guess that's his best piece of work up to now, if not the most representative from his whole filmography.

Don't miss it at any price.

I am sure the US movie industry in Hollywood will make a remake of this one. I am even surprised that the Americans have never made such a film with such a topic. But after all, maybe I am wrong.
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A tense character-driven crime thriller through the lens of Miike
dsntxst1 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
After the murder of his seven year old granddaughter, wealthy financial tycoon Takaoki Ninagawa offers a public reward of ¥1 billion to anyone who kills her murderer: convicted child rapist and murderer Kunihide Kiyomaru. After an attempt is made on his life, Kiyomaru turns himself in to the police and a five-person specialist team is assembled to escort him from Fukuoka to the District Attorney's office in Tokyo within the next 48 hours. But with potentially 125 million people after the reward and the temptation of a massive payout staring them in the face, the team are at long odds to successfully complete their mission.

I watched this not long after seeing two of director Takashi Miike's more recent efforts ('For Love's Sake' and 'Lesson of the Evil'). Like those, 'Shield of Straw' displays a definite mainstream style in comparison to other films in Miike's oeuvre, and here it lends itself quite well to the tense and thought-provoking material: five people are bound by duty to stand between the most reviled man in the nation and potentially millions of people who will do anything to get their hands on him. But those who are expecting a thrill-a-minute action-fest would do well to remember that this is a work of Miike (and of Japan) - character is definitely king.

'Shield of Straw' is very much a character-driven film. The set pieces and exposition push the story along (albeit a bit clumsily at times) but the real drivers are the characters, their motivations (vengeance, hatred, greed, honour, duty) and their subsequent actions after being thrust into an extraordinary set of circumstances. All of these are explored and ably expressed through terrific performances from the cast. Of particular note are the two leads, Takao Osawa as the duty-bound team leader with the unenviable task of protecting the most hated man in the country; and Tatsuya Fujiwara as the killer whose seeming lack of motive makes him all the more chilling (his ambiguous last words are particularly disquieting). Also an honourable mention should be made for the brief but impactful appearance of Tsutomu Yamazaki as the frail billionaire whose wealth means nothing in the face of having lost someone so dear to him.

The film also touches on ubiquitous aspects of Japanese culture (honour and duty above all else, the common greater good taking precedence over the needs of the individual) and raises interesting questions as to whether these are 'right or wrong'.

Overall (and as long as you aren't expecting a mass of explosions and bloody stand-offs every five minutes) 'Shield of Straw' is a terrific and thought-provoking film that will please Miike fans and those who appreciate great character-driven crime thrillers.
1 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed