Crime caper lacks impact

Review Crime thriller

LUPIN THE THIRD (To be advised)

133 minutes/Opens 25/09/2014

The story: Lupin III (Shun Oguri) is part of an elite group known as The Works. After the head is killed, fellow thief Michael Lee (Jerry Yan) goes into hiding with a priceless Cleopatra necklace. To get back the necklace from the ruthless Pramuk (Nirut Sirijanya), Lupin and Michael have to work together to penetrate the security fortress known as The Ark. The team includes femme fatale Fujiko Mine (Meisa Kuroki), computer expert Pierre (Kim Joon) and sword-wielding warrior Goemon (Go Ayano). Based on the popular manga by Monkey Punch, which made its first appearance in 1967.

Quite the international cast has been assembled for this crime caper. Oguri (Gokusen: The Movie, 2009) and Kuroki (Space Battleship Yamato, 2010) are from Japan, Yan (Meteor Garden, 2001) is from Taiwan and Kim (Boys Over Flowers, 2009) is from South Korea. A number of Thai actors are also cast in supporting roles.

But in terms of wattage, it is less glittery than the all-star ensemble cast of the similarly themed South Korean thriller The Thieves (2012). As it turns out, Thieves was also lighter on its feet.

Part of the problem here is the overly broad tone.

The bumbling inspector Zenigata (Tadanobu Asano) is constantly getting thwarted and his response is to yell "Lupin!" in frustration. One can imagine that this works with manga with exaggeratedly illustrated characters almost spilling out of the page. But with live action, the effect is merely cartoonish without being impactful.

The story also takes too long to play out, and without any real surprises in the unfolding either.

A top security system with formidable digital defences? No problem, a character banging away furiously on a keyboard will soon figure out a way in.

The stilted English conversations which crop up from time to time do not help matters.

There are some enjoyable elements though.

They include Oguri grinning cheekily as Lupin, suavely togged out in the character's trademark red velvet blazer and black leather pants. And having a heist take place at the fictitious Hougang Museum of Art - the movie jetsets across several countries - could raise a smile of recognition.

Watching Goemon take on a villain driving an SUV was fun as well. If it is going to be cartoonish, it might as well be over the top.

This article was first published on Sep 24, 2014.
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