Phone Call to the Bar 探偵はＢＡＲにいる
Contemporary crime comedy-drama
2011, colour, 1.85:1, 125 mins
Directed by Hashimoto Hajime (橋本一)
By Derek Elley
Mon, 13 August 2012, 09:30 AM (HKT)
Ambling, slightly offbeat private-eye movie has a characterful lead in actor Oizumi Yo. Asian and genre events.
Sapporo, Hokkaido, northern Japan, winter, the present day. A private eye (Oizumi Yo) has a run-in with some thugs he's tried to cheat but is rescued by his part-time driver Takada (Matsuda Ryuhei), a university assistant who also studies karate. The same evening, after attending a celebration for the 20th anniversary of his Kirishima Group, chairman Kirishima Toshio (Nishida Toshiyuki) is attacked and killed while going to the rescue of a young woman being kidnapped on the street. Toshio's younger wife, Saori (Koyuki), escapes harm as she is still inside the building. A year later, at his usual workplace in basement bar Keller Ohata, in the red-light district of Susukino, the private eye gets a phone-call from a woman who says her name is Kondo Kyoko and offers him US$1,000 for a simple task - to visit Minami (Nakamura Ikuji), a lawyer at Sapporo's Economic Office, mention her name and ask, "Where was Kato on 5 February last year?" After doing the job, the private eye is abducted and buried alive in snow by members of the Hanaoka gang but is later rescued by Takada. The Hanaoka gang hangs out at Heavenly Dojo, a right-wing organisation that fronts for it. While on a bender with his friend Matsuo (Taguchi Tomorowo), who supplies him with research, the private eye is introduced to Saori, who now runs the luxury Concerto club she inherited from her late husband. The private eye also discovers that "Kondo Kyoko" is the name of a restaurateur who died in a fire at the Palace Paradise complex that was thought to be deliberately started for property speculation. He then gets another call from "Kyoko", this time hiring him to visit the man called Kato and ask him directly where he was on 5 February. In the meantime, the private eye visits Kyoko's mother, Yuriko (Takeshita Keiko), who says Kyoko's actual father was Kirishima Toshio - who died on 5 February last year. Realising he's getting into very deep waters, the private eye asks the help of a onetime major gangster, Aida (Matsushige Yutaka), for whom he does small jobs.
Unfolding with an ambling charm that partly reflects its hand-me-down hero, Phone Call to the Bar 探偵はＢＡＲにいる (2011) is a private-eye riff, set in Sapporo's red-light district of Susukino, that swings between amusing, offbeat moments and more serious ones but hardly justifies its length in dramatic terms. The film shows a good sense of place in d.p. TANAKA Kazunari 田中一成's mobile photography, from the broad, snowy landscapes of Hokkaido island to the busy, neon-lit alleyways of Susukino. However, the script — based on the second novel (バーにかかってきた電話, 1993) in AZUMA Naomi 東直己's "Susukino Detective" series — has very little interior tension to hold itself together over two hours. Basically a collection of small setpieces, as the rumpled private eye — whose insignificance is underlined by not even being given a character name — stumbles from one clue to another, the film is more enjoyable as an offbeat character comedy than a crime mystery, especially as the plot is nothing special and one of the twists can be seen a mile off.
On a performance level, it's well cast, with TV-theatre actor OIZUMI Yo 大泉洋 (actually a Sapporo resident) convincingly holding the screen as the private eye who supplies his own soft-boiled voice-overs ("This is my kind of city", etc) but has a habit of simply walking straight into dangerous situations. Though he's not a fully-fledged sidekick, MATSUDA Ryuhei 松田龍平 is blankly humorous as his bored driver-assistant who can throw a powerful roundhouse kick, while veterans like NISHIDA Toshiyuki 西田敏行, ISHIBASHI Renji 石橋蓮司 and MATSUSHIGE Yutaka 松重豊 have extended cameos as yakuza/business types. As the female lead, Koyuki 小雪 only pops up here and there until the latter going, but delivers stylishly whenever on screen.
Toei journeyman director HASHIMOTO Hajime 橋本一, who knows his crime dramas (Another Battle: Conspiracy 新仁義なき戦い 謀殺 (2002), The Last Message 臨場 劇場版), pulls out the stops in the final reel, which has an operatic quality at odds with the street feel of the rest of the film. In a strange way, however, the sudden contrast does work — and at least caps the movie with some cathartic drama. Throughout, IKE Yoshihiro 池頼広's loose, jazzy score is a good fit with Tanaka's images.
ContactSales: Toei, Tokyo (email@example.com)
Theatrical release: Japan, 10 Sep 2011.
Presented by Phone Call to the Bar Production Committee (Toei, TV Asahi, Kinoshita Komuten, Toei Video, Amuse, Creative Office Cue, Toei Channel, Hokkaido Shinbun Press, TV Hokkaido, Nagoya Broadcasting Network, Asahi Broadcasting, Hiroshima Home TV, Kyushu Asahi Broadcasting) (JP). Produced by Toei (JP). Producer: Suto Yasushi.
Script: Kosawa Ryota, Suto Yasushi. Novel: Azuma Naomi (1993). Photography: Tanaka Kazunari. Editing: Tadano Shinya. Music: Ike Yoshihiro. Song: Mizuhashi Haruo. Art direction: Fukuzawa Katsuhiro. Costume design: Oba Nobumasa. Sound: Tamura Chiaki.
Cast: Oizumi Yo (the private detective), Matsuda Ryuhei (Takada), Koyuki (Saori), Nishida Toshiyuki (Kirishima Toshio), Taguchi Tomorowo (Matsuo), Namioka Kazuki (Sayama, Heavenly Dojo head), Arizono Yoshiki (Taguchi Kohei), Takeshita Keiko (Kondo Yuriko, Kyoko's mother), Ishibashi Renji (Iwabuchi Kyosuke), Matsushige Yutaka (Aida, the private detective's gangster friend), Takashima Masanobu (kidnapper), Magy (Minamoto), Ando Tamae (Mineko), Carmen Maki (Maki, the singer), Motomiya Yasukaze (Iwabuchi Mitsugu, Kyosuke's son), Achiwa Satomi (Taguchi Yasuko), Nakamura Ikuji (Minami, Sapporo Economic Office lawyer).