Greatful Dead (spelling intentional), by director Eiki Uchida, is probably one of the stranger and more frustrating movies I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s violent and funny in equal measure, but sadly not as much of either as you’d hope. It’s got something to say, but it’s not exactly sure what or how to say it. It’s not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just not a great one either.
The film stars Kumi Takiuchi as Nami. Nami has an… interesting hobby. Following a childhood full of loneliness and abandonment, she seeks comfort in finding other lonely people and watching them. Like birds. She even keeps a journal of the various types of “Solitarians.”
One day Nami comes across an old man (Takashi Sasano) shouting at people in a parking lot, a meeting she believes to be fate. She decides to follow him home and camp out on a neighboring roof where she watches him with telescope, taking the leap from voyeur to stalker. Soon a Christian missionary (Kim Kkobbi) visits the old man and offers to read the Bible with him, helping him to become less bitter and a better father and grandfather. Nami is more than a little unhappy with this change and decides to do something about it.
Kumi Takiuchi is fantastic as Nami. Her excitement at finding a new Solitarian is infectious and frankly kind of adorable. She’s equally as enthusiastic in her decent into jealousy and violence.
Takashi Sasano’s Sanjuro Shiomi is fascinating and sad. The character is a former celebrity who laments the loss of his fame and the “friends” who subsequently forgot about him. Both his turns from cranky old bastard to loving father and victim to fighter are totally believable and very well-played.
Unfortunately, for a movie that sells itself on its violence and comedy, there’s not quite enough of either. What’s there is great (especially a particularly shocking attack early on), but there really needed to more.
My main issue with the film though is the way it handles whatever it’s trying to say about religion. Religion, both Christianity and more traditional Japanese styles of worship, is portrayed variously as something pathetic, something that can improve one’s life and something that can make one’s life worse. I know the filmmaker has a message, but I’m not sure even he knows what it is.
I certainly enjoyed Greatful Dead, but I have a feeling it will be quickly forgotten. I’m not sure I’d recommend searching it out, but if it ever makes it Netflix or something similar you should definitely take a look. As to whether or not that ever happens, who knows, as the film as yet has no American distributor.
I give it 6.5 HAMMERS out of 10.