Goemon (2009)
By: Captain Red Eye on February 15, 2011  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Eastern Eye | Region 4, PAL | 2.35:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Japanese DD 5.1 | 122 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Kazuaki Kiriya
Starring: Yosuke Eguchi, Takao Ohsawa, Ryoko Hirosue. Jun Kaname, Mikijiro Hira
Screenplay: Kazuaki Kiriya
Country: Japan
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I'd been looking forward to seeing Goemon on DVD for several reasons, largely because I missed catching it at ACMI in Melbourne but also because every Japanese film I've seen lately, from Strange Circus to Suicide Club to Cure has been about child abuse, incest, self harm or serial killers. (Or sometimes, as in the case of Sion Sono's Strange Circus, all four). A visually sumptuous period piece could be just what the doctor ordered.

I was basing most of my preconceptions about Goemon partly upon a few rather breathless writeups but more so on some stunning promotional stills, some of them striking, languid and effortlessly sensual, qualities which I'd presumed would bode well for the film itself.

As it turns out it probably isn't the best idea to base the majority of your expectations regarding a movie on the strength of a still photograph. Goemon is lots of fun but it's also cartoonish, vapid and, like writer/director Kazuaki Kiriya 's first film Casshern, woefully over-reliant on usually sub-par CGI.

The story revolves around the titular hero, touted on the slick as "The Japanese Robin Hood" and portrayed with some relish and no little skill by relative unknown Yosuke Eguchi. The nature of Goemon, one might say, is irrepressible. Something of a scamp, he merrily robs from the rich, mouths off to the even richer, chases a moderate amount of skirt and titillates the populace of 16th century Japan with his rock star antics and carefully dishevelled hair.

The historical Goemon was reportedly boiled alive after pissing off one too many feudal warlords. Spoiler alert: Goemon's death in the film is somewhat more romantic, if only slightly less dramatic. Unfortunately it is preceded by two hours of flashy computer-generated gibberish, tempered only occasionally by an exciting chase sequence on horseback or the odd well-timed quip from our sassy protagonist. Good and bad in damn near equal measure, this is perhaps best described as a kookily enjoyable, if non-essential, oddity.
Goemon's strengths are definitely its visuals. The 2.35:1 widescreen transfer is crisp and potent, with the odd sepia-drenched flashback sequence artfully interspersed for good measure. Dodgy CGI aside the film is a thoroughly frenetic visual smorgasbord.
The visuals are perfectly complimented by Akihiku Matsumoto's score. By turns emotive, pensive and, like our hero, downright raucous, it sounds brilliant in DD 5.1 surround. A Japanese DTS soundtrack is on offer as well, though to be honest I was hard pressed to pick a favourite; the DTS lacks grunt but it's perhaps slightly more immersive. Both are impressive.
Extra Features
Not an abundance of bonus content on offer, with the sole extra a Making Of, but it's pretty damn decent as far as these things go. Running a pinch under 37 minutes, the Making Of is thoroughly comprehensive and offers some impressive insights into the special effects and staging of the lengthy CG sequences. Much cast and crew interview footage, and some pretty entertaining BTS stuff too, as when a sheepish Eguchi emerges from his trailer clad in a knight's costume more befitting a high school Arthurian production than a major motion picture.
The Verdict
A silly, determinedly over the top mock epic, Goemon is perhaps slightly less accomplished than Kiriya's debut feature, though given Casshern's superior source material a comparison may not really be fair. At any rate it's a fun, flashily off-kilter bit of fantasy fluff.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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