"Please laugh if you're not sure whether it's disturbing or funny," says director Ishii Kazuhiro at TIFF.
"Smuggler" is based on a single-volume manga about a failed actor who becomes an underground mover to pay back $30,000 (non-inflated exchange rate) in fraudulent debt to a Chinese gang. This is the type of movies where the plot is driven by quirky dark humor rather than logic, as the protagonist Kinuta gets deeper and deeper into trouble in the most unlikely turn of events imaginable.
It was the two "legendary assassins" Vertebrae (Andou Masanobu) and Viscera (Teiryuushin) who stole the spotlight though. There's quite a bit of action scenes throughout the film by those two in the most wacky form of violence. Vertebrae in particular was among the coolest, baddest villain ever. "Smuggler" is in no way for the faint of heart though. The lengthy torture scenes reminded me of Ichi the Killer (2001). In fact, it would've been an even more gory nerve wracking film if it wasn't for the camera angle censoring out the torture.
Matsuyuki Yasuko (beautiful as ever) also delivers a strong performance, though Tsumabuki Satoshi as the protagonist was quite a miscast as he never seemed convincing in his role. Mitsushima Hikari who was decent in Shion Sono's "Love Exposure" (2008) was comically bad, almost reading the script the whole time.
Despite the shortcomings by part of the cast, "Smuggler" is an entertaining dark comedy / action as long as you don't think too much and just enjoy the ride. And of course, don't forget to have the "teehee, his face got smacked by nunchucks" type of mindset when watching this film.
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