Itami's final film is not easy to locate outside of Japan, but Marutai no Onna (Woman in Witness Protection) is worth the extra effort. Miyamoto portrays a vain, shallow, middle-aged actress who witnesses a brutal murder and chooses to stand up to a deadly cult and its thoroughly slimy defense attorney. Realizing that the very public life of the woman makes their sole witness vulnerable to the killers, the police provide her with specially trained witness protection officers until the trial. In the interim, the lives of the actress and everyone surrounding her are changed in unexpected ways.
Masahiko Nishimura, familiar to fans of "Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald," plays an uptight police officer assigned to guard the unconventional witness. His transformation provides the funniest moments in the film. In a couple of brief scenes, Daisuke Ryu (Kagemusha, Ran, Gojoe) is sufficiently menacing as the cult's bad-ass leader. And Toru Emori creates a real bottom feeding defense lawyer, complete with the worst comb-over on the planet.
This isn't a brilliant or moving film, but Marutai is good entertainment, and it does suggest that it's never too late to become a better and/or more interesting person.
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