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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Attorney for the Prosecution
by Donald Levit

“Reboot” is kinder than “remake” for the transferal from one visual medium to another that is Ace Attorney/Gyakuten Saiban. New York-premièred at Lincoln Center in the New York Asian Film Festival and reshown the following Sunday at co-presenter Japan Society’s Japan Cuts Festival, this Takashi Miike film -- another 2012 remake of his, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, is opening commercially -- is a meticulous copy of the first of the same-name Nintendo DS video games popular since its appearance eleven years ago.

At two-and-a-quarter hours, the costly mix of live-action, anime, a tad of SFX, and gamer mentality packed in a youngish crowd that roared approval at every familiar character, gesture, tag line, outfit and signature coif. At its world première in Rotterdam, the director indicated that this is for adults with the heart of a child.

Silliness outstripping broad humor, a ludicrously involuted mystery -- actually two of them -- and visuals far more important than logic, this gamer cinema is geared towards a specific demographic, and on this level it succeeds.

On the other hand, to those weaned on Miike’s earlier kink, crime, monster, sex, S-M, and torture porn served up with a wink -- Audition; Dead or Alive/Final; Ichi the Killer; Gozu; Big Bang Love, Juvenile A -- this newest confirms that he has gone multiplex. The distinctive edgy voice has softened into box-office whimper here and in earlier J-horror One Missed Call, game adaptation Like a Dragon, Leone-channeled-through-Tarantino Sukiyaki Western Django, kiddie Yatterman and Ninja Kids!!!, and praised but nothing-new reworking 13 Assassins.

Before the first of the film’s two courtroom dramas, attorney Mia Fey (Rei Dan) uncovers new evidence about fifteen-year-old cold case DL-6 but is bludgeoned to death with a clock/Rodin’s The Thinker statuette from the gimcrack shop of punky spike-haired blond Larry Butz (Akiyoshi Nakao). Her junior associate, Phoenix Wright (Hiroki Narimiya) has a werewolf hairline with four spikes in the back and zilch courtroom expertise but takes on the defense of the murdered woman’s accused little sister Maya (Mirei Kiritani).


In the Superior Court of Tuano cases are restricted to three days and decided upon by a sole God-bearded judge (Akira Emoto). Aided by his client and the spirit of Mia, the clueless neophyte bests previously unbeaten prosecuting attorney Miles Edgeworth (Takumi Saito), prematurely long grey-haired, supercilious, decked out like an Edwardian dandy, and a disciple of famous even more foppish Prosecutor Manfred von Karma (Ryo Ishbashi), who has not lost a case or taken more than a day off in forty years.

With flashback inserts to nicely imagined Phoenix, Miles and Larry as grade-schoolers affected by stolen lunch money, a second trial and investigation develop. This time Miles himself is accused of murder and reluctantly accepts his erstwhile classmate and opponent’s help.

The reopened DL-6 affair is connected to the killing of Miles’s also-lawyer father Gregory (Takehiro Hira) and to the more recent one of a shadowy Robert Hammond (Eisuke Sasai). Apart from brief, lisping, Afro’d Lotta Hart (Mitsuki Tanimura), this universe and its character quirks is overwhelmingly male. Dragged in along with false leads and conclusions are Redd White “in Black” (Makoto Ayukawa), amnesiac Yanni Yogi (Fumiyo Kohinata) and his white cockatoo-with-a-Phoenix-crest Polly, a Disneyland-ish Blue Badger, Detective Dick Gumshoe (Shunsuke Daito), Gourd Lake monster Gourdy, helium-inflated samurai, and finally arrogant Von Karma.

The trial features virtual hologram projection screens, attendee applause, confetti showers, a missing second bullet, and a solution that no one can follow. Sherlock Holmes’s elimination of the impossible to accept the remaining improbability, would be baffled in this jumble that is as impossible as it is improbable.

Stuffing in too much -- one criminal case instead of two would have been better, for starters -- never varying its kinetic pace, depending on prior familiarity, and too in-group pleased with itself, Ace Attorney still was an obvious screaming success with the crowd at which it is directed. For those outside that target area, it may prove supremely non-stop silly.

(Released by Toho Company; not rated by MPAA.)

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