Folks sifting through their home streaming mediums for something to watch can now feast their curious eyes on Pure Japanese, from director Daishi Matsunaga over on Prime Video. The film marks the latest screen appearance from actor Dean Fujioka whose recent starring roles partly include Koji Fukada’s The Man From The Sea and Shinichi Nishitani’s Marriage, as well as Fumihiko Sori’s two recent live-action chapters of Fullmetal Alchemist to name a few.
Fujioka takes on both starring and producing duties from a script by Tatsuo Kobayashi. The actor stars as Tateishi, who performs for a stunt show at an Edo-themed family park as an action actor. Not much is known by his colleagues about his traumatic past, save for a terrible accident he is said to have observed while performing stunts on a project in the United States. It’s a past that’s largely gone unaccounted for without incident as long as he’s been able to do the work and perform with his team, and for all intents and purposes, save for some moments when he freezes due to a sudden flash of light from any angle, he’s usually quite good.
Ultimately however, there’s no real chance of ever letting go of what afflicts him, as it seems that no matter where he goes, death decides to follow. It most certainly keeps him company in the wake of an aggresive harrassment campaign toward an elderly land owner and his granddaughter, Ayumi (Aju Makita), and it’s only a matter of time until Tateishi will be forced to confront his demons and embrace who he truly is, in the face of a never-ending evil.
The most subjective part of Pure Japanese is the subject matter pertaining to a fictional, controversial aptitude test being developed by a health food company that examines your DNA through your nasal cavities to examine what percentage of Japanese a person is. Regardless of the intended connection there is here between this particular plot device and the rest of the film though, it’s worth putting the needed focus on the character of Tateishi and the albeit quiet psychological episodes he goes through in terms of his own identity and his troubling childhood memories.
For this, Pure Japanese is a largely cerebral affair with sprinkles of action to boot as we acquaint ourselves with Tateishi. He becomes a worthwhile protagonist who garners interest despite some dark spots to his personality, including when he shows how far he will go to protect good people from bullies, including the Yakuza who are getting their marching orders from a Chinese broker and a corrupt local businessman with political aspirations of his own.
Accordingly, Tateishi’s friendship with Ayumi has its share of trials as well, but nothing gets too much in the way of her need for him when the going gets tough, even if Tateishi does have a menacing side that he’s largely kept to himself in the course of his own introspective ruminations entrenched in Japanese culture.
Eiji Morisaki’s action choreography assembles a blend of modern action with swordplay and fisticuffs, all leading up to a brutal, explosive third-act sequence in a setting straight out of a classic jidaigeki thriller. There’s motorcycle stunts, grenades, a little bit of gunplay, and a swordfight, all culminating with a climatic, blood-soaked fight finale. It’s a fun moment of fan service for moviegoers who love a little bit of everything in Japanese cinema, topped with an English epilogue from the role of Tateishi that certainly leaves you with something to ponder by the film’s credits.
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Native New Yorker. Lover of all things pizza, chocolate, pets, and good friends. Karaoke hero. Left of center. Survivor. Fond supporter of cult, obscure and independent cinema - especially fond of Asian movies and global action cinema. Author of the bi-weekly Hit List. Founder and editor of Film Combat Syndicate. Still, very much, only human.