Thursday, July 5, 2012

i SPY ASIASPY: Ironfinger

Director: Jun Fukuda
Year 1965
Ironfinger, AKA 100 Shot 100 Killed, is a fantastic Asiaspy entry that showcases all the fun things that make the Bond formula of spy flicks so entertaining while adding a bit of silliness to the proceedings that knock you for a loop. With a tongue-in-cheek attitude that graces every frame of this wildly stunning film, the proof is in the pudding that Toho productions could produce some insanely enjoyable features outside of the kaiju and sci-fi/horror realms. Ironfinger is a whimsical take on the James Bond aesthetic and you really can’t go wrong with this immensely fun outing and its cast of energetic characters.
The film follows an intriguing vacationer named Andrew Hoshino, who crosses paths and identities with a recently murdered Interpol agent and unexpectedly gets caught up in an espionage filled adventure that takes him through the crime ridden streets of Tokyo to the sandy covered beaches of the Philippines. Once Andrew takes on the mission, he finds himself pitted against two rival gangs who are vying for a shipment of firearms that an infamous arms dealer possesses, while at the same time dealing with a mysterious and beautiful explosives expert named Sawada Yumi, a goofy and comical police chief named Tezuka, and a cruel professional killer named Komori who loves to dowse his victims in a thick spray of acid. With action at every turn and danger around every bend, Andrew comes to find that being an Interpol agent is both perilous, but a whole hell of a lot of fun.

Akira Takarada plays the role of Andrew Hoshino, the ambiguous character that isn’t what he seems. The beautiful thing about this role is that you’re never really sure if Andrew is just a strange vacationer swept up in all of these espionage antics, or if he truly is an Interpol agent assigned to take down the bad guys. The uncertainty of the role is quite special and the fact that Andrew is so efficient at killing and escaping insurmountable odds leans heavily on him being an agent, but because of his wild portrayal of the character and his odd behavior, you really can’t peg him down on either side of the fence. Akira does a wonderful job with the role and his style and attitude is what makes the film so enjoyable to watch. His charisma shines in this movie and the playful way in which he showcases all of his agent character’s skill and panache is ridiculously hypnotic. If there is one thing that just works perfectly in this film and encapsulates the overall attitude and energy of the production, it would be Akira’s mesmerizing performance.
Filling up the rest of the cast is Mie Hama as the stunning explosives expert Sawada Yumi, whose allegiance is always hazy with intentions that hover mysteriously over the film. Mie looks amazing in this film and you can tell why she was chosen as a Bond girl a few years later for the entry You Only Live Twice. She has that femme fatale look and feel down to a science and she electrifies the frame whenever she comes onto the screen. She does an amazing job in this film and I only wish that I could hunt down her performance in Key of Keys, the original film that was created from Woody Allen’s dubbed masterpiece What’s Up, Tiger Lily?. Another memorable role in Ironfinger is performed by Ichiro Arishima as the bumbling chief of police, Detective Tezuka. He brings a great deal of physical comedy to the film that meshes exceptionally well with Akira Takarada’s more subtle comedically timed quips and overall smooth delivery. Another standout, yet painfully underused role, is Akihiko Hirata’s take on the professional killer Komori. Cruel to the last and specializing in using acid as his signature murder weapon, Akihiko does a great job in delivering a character that would fit right in with the long line of interesting Bond villains. It’s just too bad that he wasn’t used more intricately within the story.

I mentioned it earlier, but I can’t stress it enough, this film is loads of fun. From the ambiguous nature of the character of Andrew Hoshino, to the fast-paced and comical moments of the film, to the stylish look of the end product, Ironfinger is a cinematic gem that is as equally entertaining as it is enthralling. Without a doubt the movie delivers on all that you would expect from the trailer and the fun of it all is seeing it all play out. From double-crossings, impressive stunts, and hilarious character interactions, the film has it all. As a film from beginning to end, the atmosphere is energetic and quirky, providing a stage where wacky situations occur a mile a minute and do so with great aplomb.
Most of these crazy situations can be attributed to the cast of accomplished actors who really thrive with the eccentricities of their characters. As previously stated, Akira Takarada as Andrew Hoshino is wonderful and his cool and laid back style is hypnotizing to watch. There is a memorable scene during the closing moments of the film that has him gunning down a villain in a very interesting way. Instead of just blowing the guy away, Andrew decides to give the man a sporting chance by throwing a gun out onto the beach and allowing the doomed man a heads start. He agrees to not fire until the man has the gun in his possession and the build-up to this moment is exceptionally crafted, as this life or death situation takes place across this beautiful and idyllic location amidst the Philippines’ gorgeous coastline. Director Jun Fukuda captures the breathtaking splendor of the landscape and juxtaposes this against a rather brutal and savage execution, resulting in one of the most iconic moments of the film and a perfect end to a fantastically pleasurable movie.

Ironfinger encapsulates everything that I love in the genre of 60’s spy cinema and that’s sly wit, ridiculous action, diverse characters, and memorable moments. The movie is packed to the gills with these elements and it’s showcased in such a visually pleasing manor that you’d be hard-pressed in not finding a good time in this flick. With its tendency towards the bizarre and the over the top nature of its cinematic world, Ironfinger has no trouble keeping the attention of the audience glued to the screen.
It also doesn’t hurt that the film has a cast that fits perfectly within the confines of the story as they jump out to entertain us at every turn. Akira Takarada, Mie Hama, and Ichiro Arishima do a wonderful job in melding with this wacky world that director Jun Fukuda has set up and their interactions between each other are priceless in their deliveries. Akira Takarada especially runs with the role of Andrew Hoshino and gives a performance that is simply madcap crazy and enjoyable to the last. Of the number of Asiaspy films that I’ve come across, Ironfinger is definitely the best of the bunch and if you’re looking for a staple of the genre, then I suggest you hunt down this little known gem. It’s absolutely amazing! Ironfinger is…..

Gee, I love the hat mister. Where'd you get it from?

It's not lady like to fart in an automobile!

So I've got guns... big whoop.

Get the hell out from under my chair asshole!

Is it hot in here or is it just Mie?

You fiend! Just let me put on some pants!

Now let's talk about how I get my pants back on.

Absolutely no farting in my car mister.

Check out my hat, it's super awesome!

That's not a hat..... This is a HAT!

The next person to let a stink-nugget out in my car is getting bitch-slapped.

Not the best hiding place Yumi, but I'll give you an A for effort.

Raise your hands, raise your hands if your sure!

Real mature Tezuka!

Ok you've got us, but I have to admit those pants are exquisite.

Congratulations Andrew! You win the gold medal!

Nothing like hunting a guy to get your blood pumping.

Good... Bad... I'm the guy with the gun.

See you suckers later. I'm gonna get laid.