Shield of Straw: Takashi Miike’s Violent Opus

Japanese

(Wara No Tate)

straw_shield_posterThough a prolific director, with a huge body of work, Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike is not a well-known director beyond the cults of fans and the film festival circuit.

Some critics have raised eyebrows over the inclusion of Miike’s latest violent opus, Shield of Straw, in the main competition of the 2013 Cannes Film Fest.

Beginning with the generic title and continuing with an absurd tale, Shield of Straw is a minor work, when placed in the context of the director’s impressive output.

Ninagawa is a multi-billionaire who believes that his granddaughter was killed by Kunihide Kiyomaru (Tatsuya Fujiwara).

straw_shield_1Seeking revenge, Ninagawa places an ad in all the major Japanese newspapers offering 1 billion to the person who kills Kiyomaru.  As a result, the terrified, Kiyomaru quickly turns himself in to the Fukuoka Police.  Later, four cops transport Kiyomaru back to Tokyo, putting their lives on the line.  The long journey–1,200 kilometers to be exact–turns into a hellish chase, as there are potential murderers at practically every turn.

In the last reel, “Shield of Straw” becomes too serious for its own good, raising issues of the meaning of justice and revenge.

Here and there, there are some dark and resonant touches as in the killer’s final lines, which suggest the gleeful perversity we have come to expect from a Miike picture.

straw_shield_2Sporadically, “Shield of Straw” is diverting due to some impressive action set-pieces and shoot-outs, but the movie is not very suspenseful or interesting due to its heavy reliance on generic conventions and lack of interesting ideas.

The story is superficial, largely related in surface imagery, but with no dramatic or emotional depth. By standards of Miike’s better films, the technical execution here is passable but lacking distinction and lustre.

Credits

Running time: 124 Minutes.

Directed By: Takashi Miike.

 Kazuhiro Kiuchi and Tamio Hayashi.