Sticking it to the Man

Hitoshi Matsumoto, one-half a legendary Japanese comic duo, debuts as big-screen director/star with this goof on the rubber monster movie line, especial debt owed to Ultraman. Dai Sato (Matsumoto) is heir to a family of Big Men, homeland protectors who, under high-voltage electroshock, grow to apartment-block size and wrangle on television whatever rampaging cheapo CGI is threatening the peace. In Sato’s era -- underpaid, ratings in the basement, geishas gone -- this means dog-catching low-comic grotesques: a Cyclops with an eye dangling from its crotch, or publicly-copulating behemoths. Life at normal size only adds to the indignity. Sato’s a distracted burnout with time-warp sartorial sense, intent only on stroking his hair out of his eyes. His wife has left him, taking his daughter and any prospect of a successor. His transformation ceremony takes place in a storeroom. His agent sells ad space on his torso. Sans secret identity, he takes the PR hits (and obscene graffiti) when Big Man slips up -- the best bit involves mishandling an infant monster and resulting mawkish vigils. Between such shots of inspiration, Matsumoto’s mock-doc framework seems a lazy stock device, interviews playing more dead than deadpan and failing to exceed an over-familiar comic-pathetic attitude toward the lives of functionaries.
May 29-June 4, 2009

 
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