Monday, April 10, 2006


Minbo no Onna
Izumi Films
Director: Juzo Itami
Length: 123 min.
Country: Japan
Format: VHS
Date Viewed: 2 April, 2006

Juzo Itami's Minbo is the classic underdog story, this time set in an upscale Tokyo hotel. The underdogs are two employees picked largely at random by hotel executives to push out the yakuza (Japanese mafia), who have moved in and are bilking the hotel and its employees for millions. The underdogs' add to their corner Mahiru (the fabulous Nobuko Miyamoto), a feisty extortion attorney with plenty of anti-yakuza experience under her belt, as the trainer/mentor character. This comedy breaks no new ground, but is a pleasant and often very funny take on the archetypal story.

The only thing that puts a damper on the proceedings is that it runs too long by twenty or thirty minutes, hammering home its point again and again and again, first in a comedic manner and eventually turning to dramatic and suspenseful examples of extortionary measures and how to stop them. Though it is successfully tense in the final showdown, the movie works best when it stays with its funny side, and is hilarious when it does so.

The film never suffers too terribly from flaw, but it is enough to keep the director's Tampopo in its spot at the pinnacle of the director's filmography. Still, Minbo is worth a rental. It's a little harder to find, but worth the trouble.


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