Lupin III (2014)

Rating: D

Dir: Ryuhei Kitamura
Star: Shun Oguri, Tetsuji Tamayama, Meisa Kuroki, Tadanobu Asano

While this kinda looks the part, this live-action adaptation of a classic manga and anime series is hugely disappointing, and I speak as someone who loved the show – Castle of Cagliostro was among the first things that clued me into the world of Japanese animation. This doesn’t have one-tenth of the spirit or heart – I was at least expecting great action from the man who did Versus, but even this aspect is largely flat and uninteresting. At 133 minutes, the story meanders without focus until well into the second half, and the character development is extremely lazy, apparently built on the assumption you know everything about these characters already, so we won’t bother making any attempt to flesh them out.

The plot starts with betrayal from within the ranks of The Works, a group of thieves of whom Lupin (Oguri), Fujiko (Kuroki) and Jigen (Tamayama) are members, and meanders round East Asia in a search for control over a necklace which, legend has it, used to belong to Cleopatra. This builds to a raid by our three, along with samurai Goemon, on The Ark: a famously secure facility in Thailand. It’s not the first stab at a live-action version: forty years ago, there was Lupin III: Strange Psychokinetic Strategy, but this is clearly intended to… Well, actually, I’m not clear what the intention is here. It’s not a reboot, since there no sense of characters being reinvented. It doesn’t appear to tie into any other Lupin entities. No, this has the feel of something which exists purely for the purpose of generating money, with little or no artistic goal.

I literally fell asleep three times in the first 30 minutes: yeah, it was after lunch ‘n’ all, but it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of its virtues, when you have to keep rewinding a film, especially one that’s overlong to begin with. The characters do look like you think they ought to, and the production design is equally on the money. However, the two-dimensional hand-drawn animation cels created significantly more depth than the performances we see here: Asano, as Lupin’s nemesis, Interpol detective Zenigata, is about the only one to make more than the shallowest of impressions, and its a version more to be endured than enjoyed. On this basis, if it’s another four decades before they try again, that will be quite alright by me.