Shoot or shield

Shoot or shield
Nanako Matsushima (above) plays one of the hero cops who have to protect the paedophile (Tatsuya Fujiwara).

Review Action thriller

SHIELD OF STRAW (PG13)

DURATION: 117 minutes
RATING: 3.5/5
Opens on 12th September

The story: The murder of a seven-year-old girl shocks Japan. The prime suspect is paedophile Kiyomaru (Tatsuya Fujiwara), who is on the run. The girl's grandfather, industrialist Ninagawa (Tsutomu Yamazaki), offers 1 billion yen (S$12.7 million) to anyone who kills him. Kiyomaru, left without allies, turns himself in to the Fukuoka police. An elite team of five seemingly incorruptible cops, including Shiraiwa (Nanako Matsushima) and Mekari (Takao Osawa), is sent to protect him from a nation gone mad with greed and hate as the accused travels the 1,200km to custody in Tokyo.

Prolific and controversial director Takashi Miike proved with the samurai drama 13 Assassins (2010) that he could do big, conventional action scenes. That skill is put to the test here every few minutes when ordinary citizens - both civilians and those in uniform - take a run at the accused paedophile-murderer with every tool imaginable.

This efficient and well-crafted action thriller has moments that surprise and a nicely twisty plot, but does not do anything remarkable with the well-worn theme of cops who run a deadly gauntlet for the sake of duty.

The baby-faced and slender actor Fujiwara, playing the handcuffed and hobbled man, deserves a special award for being in the most number of scenes in recent memory in which an actor is given a thrashing.

The 53-year-old Miike is best known for works marked by intense cruelty and body horror (Audition, 1999; Ichi The Killer, 2001), but his talent runs to a much wider palette than arthouse examinations of the dark side of the human mind.

In this work, nominated for the top prize of the Palme D'or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, Miike works with a script adapted from a novel.

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