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Yep, it's bad.
There's a workable story hiding in there somewhere, but it's mostly obscured by mind-numbingly cheap fights, a clichéd soundtrack and general DTV feel.
Stone Cold Steve Austin is John Brickner, a recently paroled ex-con. He is aided by Veronica (Lynda Boyd), the widow of the man John was imprisoned for killing. However, Veronica's help is not motivated by forgiveness or understanding, but rather by a need to have John help her with her own desperate agenda.
Needing money and fast, John befriends underground fight agent Reno (Walton Goggins) and his girlfriend Frankie (Laura Vandervoort). Together they enter a fight circuit hoping that the rewards of victory will solve their respective dilemmas.
The acting in "Damage" is sub-par. Here I don't evaluate Steve Austin because you aren't expecting much. Laura Vandervoort is a little bit of eye candy, but her character seems more interested in appearing scene than actually helping her man out. Walton Goggins is too old for his role and is very inconsistent. Sometimes he's convincing, sometimes very dry --- but you can never put a finger on what his character really values. Instead of helping his woman, his character seems to gamble all his spare dollars away.
Thematically the film is a Christian tract with an "original sin" subtext. Necessarily, this leads to a class warfare view of social relationships whereby everyone is either portrayed as a "master" or a "slave" due to their debts --- moral, economic or otherwise. By consequence this perpetuates the bromides that money = root of all evil, and happiness consists of a duty ethic.
And oh yeah, rich whitey is behind it all.
Many action film fans are willing to overlook genre clichés if the film has exciting fights, like in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine". But the fights in "Damage" consist of unrealistic blood splatter and mindless repetition, so it's doubtful that even the action buffs will be satisfied. Steve Austin only throws hay-makers (which rarely appear to connect),and his primary fighting attribute seems to be that he is "Stone Cold", i.e., takes a beating without getting knocked out.
The "final fight" of the film hearkens back to the cheese of mid-80's action flicks, but without the enjoyable payoff. Captive audiences should not be made to endure such a ruthless conglomeration of "YOU CAN DO IT!" aerobic workout music and extreme body greasing. It's not 1986 anymore, and there's just no excuse for direction of this kind.
The whole film is summed up by the homophobic hug given at the end:
Insult to the genre
This film undercuts the whole premise of a mockumentary: that one is able suspend one's disbelief about whether the story is true or not.
With over-the-top character names (Tank Macho) terrible dialogue gimmicks, and no stunts whatsoever, the film falls apart within the first five minutes.
"Stuntmen" is an exercise in tediousness that seems like it were created by the most obnoxious members of a junior-year high-school drama class, if they were only allotted a large enough budget for their pubescent foolishness.
If one wishes to contrast this film to a properly done modern mockumentary, please watch "A Mighty Wind" or "Hard Core Logo".
The only people who will be able to stomach this meal are the kind who consider "Talledega Nights" to be superior to "The Godfather". Everyone else steer clear.
Eiga: Kurosagi (2008)
The series deserved much better.
Instead of resolving the thematic content of the television series, which is the nature and role of justice, Eiga: Kurosagi takes several steps backwards.
We see no discussion of Tsurara's incentive to make a choice upon whether to change her vision of justice nor do we see Kurosaki evolving in his senses. Indeed, it seems at times as if Episode 11 of the series has not even taken place. For example, Kurosaki calls Yoshikawa "Yoshida" when in the final episode he has recognizes her respectfully and stops deliberately getting her name wrong. In the movie he is back to treating her like a nuisance.
Indeed, Maki Horikita as Tsurara Yoshikawa is extremely underused in this film. She is resigned to the role of observer and has no bearing on the outcome of the plot. This is part of why the movie suffers. The series was built around the contrast of vigilante justice or revenge vs the legal system as the arbiter of justice. Tsurara and Kurosaki are contrasts, with Katsuragi and Detective Kashima Masaru as the extreme examples on both sides. Instead the film focuses on only one side, the relationship between Kurosaki and Katsuragi. While it is important that this relationship is resolved at some point, it is only compelling as a sub-plot in the T.V series, and doesn't work as the main story focus of a movie:
"Eiga: Kurosagi" uses a revolving contrast to the death of Julius Caesar, with Katsuragi and Kurosaki discussing Brutus' betrayal of the ancient Roman emperor. However, it is foggy as to what the relationship of this metaphor is to the characters. Katsuragi says, "Then you tell me, how would you respond if a person you trusted betrayed you?" when at this point, we have no reason to believe Kurosaki trusts Katsuragi. He doesn't actually show sympathy for the old man until the end of the film, after he has obtained certain knowledge about his past. Until that point, Kurosaki is only using Kat to thin the ranks of swindlers until he can defeat Mikimoto, which is main plot of the whole television series.
Complicating matters is a drawn out introduction that lacks motivation. It is designed to be fun but is not entertaining. I understand that some people may watch the movie that have not watched the series and perhaps that is helpful for them, but a literal explanation of Kurosaki's role and relationship to other characters would have been best explained by action and events and not talk. As it is shown, it only seems to slow the pacing of movie, and the whole film suffers for it. It is also difficult to imagine watching the film as removed from the jdorama series anyway, so this effort seems wasted. Time spent on the introduction could have been better used solidifying the roles of other characters. For example, a simple meeting between Kashima and Kurosaki at the beginning of the film would have made more sense.
The main plot revolves around a little girl who needs a heart transplant, and her mothers efforts to get the money needed to pay for it. Somehow a swindler has gotten his hands on her savings and she is now unable to pay for for the operation. Obviously, Kurosaki gets involved and comes to recognize that the mother is only one of many victims of the same swindler.
The film updates a clock lay-over towards the end as if to as if to update the audience of a countdown to a plot event. However, the clock is a cheap device to create suspense and it backfires. This is also the case for a dream-sequence/commercial Kurosaki gives to explain how his money-card system works to other swindlers. That kind of stuff can fly on television, but not on the big screen.
There are a few positives in the film. Takenaka Naoto is great as "white swindler" Ishigaki, doing his best film work since 2002's "Ping Pong". When Maki does get screen time, she steals every moment of it. It's amusing to see that Kurosaki has a car in the film and can actually drive, instead of walking everywhere like he does in the television series.
It's also nice to see Katsuragi someplace other than inside his bar for once. Yamapi is acceptable as Kurosaki, effectively playing down his catch-phrases and idol status, taking the role more seriously instead of reverting to nervously gulping over and over again as he does in his other roles.
I could go on, but the question remains: If you are not going to bring the story to a thematic conclusion, or at least add logically to the course of events, why bother making the film? The ending attempts to refocus things back to the main story arc, but you can't deny what came in the two hours before was confusing, poorly edited and not compelling. The swindled mother and daughter are not given enough screen time, so when we finally reach the would-be tearful climax of the movie, it lacks the appropriate emotional impact.
The reality is that any episode of Kurosagi would have served as a better big-screen basis than this idea. Overall, this film is an embarrassment to the solid original manga and especially to the exceptional television series. Unfortunately, for those who liked the jdorama, you have no choice but to watch the film anyway: a door is left open again, for a sequel or second season.
Puropôzu dai sakusen (2007)
Tomohisa Yamashita stars as Ken Iwase, a young man full of regret over his past in "Proposal Daisakusen".
As his childhood friend and long-time crush Rei (Masami Nagasawa) is married to another man, Ken muses over not taking advantage of his chances to be with her. Time is interrupted by Yosei (Hiroshi Mikami) a self-described "fairy" of love who grants Ken the ability to travel into the past and try to correct the poor decisions he has made. However, Yosei can only send Ken back through physical pictures of that past, and only for a short time. Can Ken change either the outcome of his future relationship with Rei or how he feels about her?
Moving the story along are Ken's group of four friends including Rei, the mature Mikio, the absurdly immature but endearing Tsurumi, and Rei's best friend, and Tsurumi's crush, Eri. We follow them from primary school, through high-school and university, with Ken darting from his past back into the present moment of the wedding and then back again.
It is difficult to dislike the groom, Tada, (Fujiki Naohito) who seems to embody all the qualities that Ken lacks, while also genuinely being in love with Rei.
This complicates the story, but also makes it more interesting since there is no cop-out, "wait till she discovers he is a bad guy" mechanism in place.
That mechanism would only impede the main theme and course of the plot, which is that in matters of the heart, it is not enough to just identify those who we love most, but that we must consistently act to externalize our love towards that person, or else we damn ourselves to being misunderstood --- and all of the bad things that go with that.
Far less mystical than the premise of a 'time-travel-endowing fairy' suggests, "Proposal Daisakusen" uses that only as a means to express the very real and earthly values of friendship, honesty, redemption and courage. It leaves us with the affirming message that our own happiness is the ultimate standard by which we must make our decisions, no matter how painful the process of that decision-making might be.