Thursday, May 03, 2012

Surely Someday

It is often said that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." If that be true, then Guy Ritchie should be floored by the level of appreciation that Shun Oguri has shown for his use of slow motion effects and time lapse photography. Yes, the actor best known for playing Hanazawa Rui (Hana Yori Dango) and Suzuran faction leader, Takaya Genji (Crows Zero) has gone to the extent of crafting an outrageous, coming-of-age film that pays homage to [if not totally replicating] the cinematic style of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, minus the narrative punch provided by a clever screenplay and the kickass factor contributed by Vinnie Jones or Jason Stratham.

I remember my sister telling me about this movie project in the same breath as sharing the latest rumors about Oguri being a horny dog, but I never really placed much thought into it since: (a) she couldn't tell me the title of the movie at that time; (b) Shun Oguri always struck me as the kind of actor who worked best in an ensemble, which, to me, meant that if he didn't have the draw or star power to carry the lead role, then chances are, he wouldn't have the ability to helm a full-length movie feature; and (c) I couldn't care less about which girl/jpop group member he banged at allegedly took to a motel.

About this time last year, I was doing some prep work for that Arashi post that I've always been meaning to do but never got around to doing, and even though the said post never materialized, I ended up watching a number of Japanese variety shows hosted by Japan's "national idols". One of the shows I managed to catch (thanks to fans who shared the said episode on a streaming site without the permission of the subber) happened to be Oguri's promotional guest stint at Arashi ni Shiyagare where I finally learned the movie title which was シュアリー・サムデイ or going by the boys' phonological speech, "Shuari Samudei".

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In this dramedy of errors, penned by writer Shogo Muto, five high school friends barricade themselves in a classroom with a home-made bomb in protest of the cancellation of their school festival and the corresponding "annihilation" of their dream to perform as a band. Brimming with hope and the promise of being surrounded by adoring fans through their music, Takumi (Koide Keisuke), Kyohei (Katsuji Ryo), Hideto (Ayano Gou), Kazuo (Suzuki Ryohei) and Yuki (Muro Tsuyoshi) mount a successful campaign for the reinstatement of the festival but when they fail to defuse the prop time-bomb  they had set up to facilitate negotiations with the school administrators, the damage caused by the explosion would later prove to be monumental not only to the lives of these boys.

Surely Someday provides a spry yet unbalanced story about how chance encounters and circumstances can produce a ripple effect that would link two seemingly unrelated events that in the long run would produce irreversible consequences. There's a network of people involved in this slapdash tale, such that the connection drawn between these wayward teens and a former prostitute (Konishi Manami) would span a number of years, beginning with a summer childhood adventure to Kabukicho and a botched up sting operation. The film hurtles back and forth between the past and the present as all five find themselves tainted, unable to move on from the incident.

Now a feckless bartender, a third-rate college virgin, a fledgling yakuza, a street busker and a hikikimori find themselves in trouble once again as their past catches up with them. They have no choice but to make amends, find each other and reunite long enough to take care of unfinished business; what's more, they need to retrieve 300 million Yen before yakuza boss Kito (Yoshida Kotaro) sends his men to ice them.

Fun and upbeat, Surely Someday is a film that can not be taken seriously no matter how hard it tries to infuse its storyline with some edgy scenes and grim but oft times, shallow existentialist musings about lost youth and opportunities. It's full of high school hijinks and flailing commentary about people who put their life on hold, set to punk-rock music, peppered with drugs, money laundering, even some violence and undignified [non-metaphorical] boot licking. Decidedly the result of a well-meaning and excitable collaboration, the movie tends to be overbearingly gratuitous in its execution and unbelievably self-conscious in acquiring a modicum of street credibility amidst the fanfare. This is no Go or American Graffiti but a rollicking, hyper-comedic Japanese production containing familiar elements of what made a movie "cool" in the late 90s.

For a directorial debut, Surely Someday is quite a mediocre offering---it comes chock-full of novice mistakes, betraying the lack of vision or originality on the part of Oguri to work behind the camera and instruct his fellow actors towards achieving a good take. He seems to have approached the film as he would a goukon by calling in favors from friends and co-workers (judging by the number of cameos), giving them free rein to act and [over]react as they see fit without any instruction. There are indeed times when the scenes felt like an impromptu comedy sketch, given the hammy delivery of lines and the cast's acting choices.

There's also the sudden shift in tone with very little lead in, thus catching the viewer by surprise as the droll buffoonery of its first act gives way to an adorable yet short-lived segment featuring the characters' childhood, interrupted yet once again by some clumsy action, more melodrama and a failed Sugar & Spice routine set in the present. Oguri's artistic choices do not often work; the overdone 10-second recapitulation of each character's three-year activities, the white footprint suit donned by the yakuza boss,  or even  the slow motion off-target gangster shoot out set to the tune of Schubert's Ave Maria (which brings to mind the game Hitman), tend to be whimsical additions rather than valuable set pieces.

Despite its flaws, Surely Someday is, by all accounts, not a bad movie. There's enough story in it to keep a viewer entertained provided one can overlook the uneven acting. It would have been much better had there been competent and assured direction from Shun Oguri, however as it stands today, it's quite clear that his ambition appears to have exceeded his ability.
 Photo credits/Movie Stills by Asiabeam and Ramen
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