I'll be up front here: I hate Pulp Fiction with a vengeance. Easily the most over-rated film of the 90's IMHO, its self-indulgent mix of pop-culture riffs, "look at me" dialogue and nonsensical structure solidified my vague dislike of Quentin Tarantino into a loathing that abides to this day, barely tempered by Kill Bill. Inevitably, this phobia infects any film influenced by Pulp, even to the mildest and most innocent of purposes. As a result, the instant Wild Life's fractured approach became clear, this red mist kinda descended, and the film didn't have much of a chance after that.
This is not to say it's a bad film, necessarily - just one I found more irritating than appreciable. Hero Hiroki (Toyohara) spends his spare time doing a jigsaw puzzle, a metaphor about as subtle as a brick for a layout that bips around in time and location in a manner almost designed to confuse. Oh, the characters know what's going on, but does Aoyama let the audience in? No: and it's probably giving nothing away to say that the McGuffin here, an envelope which leads to Hiroki's boss (Curtis) getting kidnapped, is about as irrelevant as Pulp Fiction's suitcase.
Aoyama certainly has a talent - there were a couple of quietly understated shots that made us go "Oooh!" at their audacity - and Toyohara is entirely credible as a boxer turned pachinko machine engineer. However, neither in storyline nor characters was there enough going on to retain my interest, and Aoyama, like Tarantino, seems happy to play in his cinematic sandbox. Meanwhile, the viewer on the outside, who wants in to the director's own little world, is repeatedly denied entry by the smug impenetrability the film offers.
[This film is released on August 30th in the US: the DVD has an interview with the director, filmographies, and a commentary by Jasper Sharp. For more information, visit ArtsMagic's website.]