Tuesday, 1 May 2012


Film: Crime Or Punishment?!?
UK Release date: 14th May 2012
UK Distributor: Third Window Films
Certificate: 15
Director: Keralino Sandorovich
Starring: Riko Narumi, Kumiko Aso, Sakura Ando, Yasunori Danda
Running time: 110 mins
Genre: Comedy
Country: Japan
Subtitles: English
Reviewer: Adam Wing

Every day is pretty much like any other. That is, of course, unless your name is Ayame (Riko Narumi) and you live in a world created by Keralino Sandorovich. With a pin-up career going nowhere fast, Ayame takes on the PR role of ‘police chief for the day’; a job that would normally require her to put on her best smile and act like she works for the police department. Unfortunately for Ayame, today is not a normal day. The staff at the police station insist on treating her like a real police chief and look to her for advice, enthusiasm and instruction. Which is bad enough in itself, but add to the mix an ex-boyfriend who works as a detective at the station, and you’re starting to have a very bad day indeed.

Things are a little more complicated than that though, and there’s more to her ex Haruki (Kento Nagayama) than meets the eye. Not only is he playing at being her subordinate for the day, he also holds a dark and deadly secret that goes someway to explaining why they broke up in the first place. Situations take another unexpected turn when a major event takes place, and it’s down to Ayame to solve the case at hand. Crime or Punishment?!? is a slapstick comedy starring Riko Narumi (Bushido Sixteen), Kento Nagayama (Villain), Sakura Ando (Love Exposure) and Megumi Okina (Shutter), arriving on UK shores this month courtesy of Third Window Films.

Keralino Sandorovich sure likes to mix it up a bit, onscreen and off. In real life he has formed a new wave band, established a theatre company, written and directed award winning plays, produced and scripted television drama, and directed films like 1980, A Delicious Way to Kill and Gumi Chocolate Pine. Onscreen he is no less dynamic. A humorous voice-over gets the ball rolling, telling the tale of an average working man going about his mundane existence. Blessed with touching, well-observed writing and laugh out loud humour, Crime or Punishment?!? sets the right tone from the outset. The outset however, is where it stays. From here on in Crime or Punishment?!? is a mishmash of slapstick brilliance and scattershot plotting.

Sandorovich litters his movie with comical interludes aplenty, some of them stick but a lot of them don’t, and the less said about the storyline the better. It’s a bizarre set up to say the least, and as a result, this quirky Japanese comedy could struggle to find an audience on our shores. None of the storyline issues would matter of course if the comedy truly worked, and while there are signs of promise in early exchanges - two lowly crooks spring to mind - and later on in proceedings, but Crime or Punishment?!? loses its way beneath some curveball plotting. There’s next to no chemistry between Ayame and Haruki, and the film lacks heart whenever their back-story takes centre stage. There’s a lot of potential in these sequences – much like the film as a whole - but Sandorovich doesn’t quite pull it off. The final act is chaotic and occasionally fun but it’s almost as though he came up with the jokes first and worried about the plotting later.

Riko Narumi looks lost for the most part (a lot of that is down to the character she plays rather than the actress herself) and its not until the final act that she starts to have fun with the role. Thankfully, the same can’t be said for the supporting cast members. Sakura Ando’s gleeful Momo is a former school friend who has turned the tables on Ayame by becoming a successful pin-up girl. She spends most of the movie inside Ayame’s imagination, mocking her (usually half naked) with naturalistic comedy timing. The perpetrators at the heart of the story are fiendishly OTT, but in truth, their characters walk hand in hand with the bonkers premise of the movie. It’s dafter than daft and battier than the caped crusaders hideout, but every now and then it hits the right note, and Crime or Punishment?!? benefits greatly from a stranger than strange downpour of comedy highlights. The opening act hints at something smarter, but the term ‘hit and miss’ has never felt more appropriate than it does here.

Good intentions only get you so far, and for all its goodwill, Crime or Punishment?!? misses its target more often than not. There are great ideas at work, and from time to time it really is laugh-out-loud funny, but a little more focus on plotting would have surely paid dividends. Unfocused and ultimately disappointing, Sandorovich’s latest is neither crime or punishment, it sits somewhere in between.

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