Kazuto ( Kazuto Osawa ) has a dream: he wants to become a great actor one day! Unfortunately, his nerves are not the strongest. Every time he faces a man in a conflict situation, he faints. Fortunately for him, there is still his brother Hiroki ( Hiroki Kono ), whom he meets again after years and who takes him under his wing. Because he's also an actor. In a way. More precisely, the agency places people on special occasions in real life, where they should pretend to be someone else. If the first jobs are still quite banal, that changes suddenly when Miyu ( Yumi Ogawa ) enters her life. Because her sister Rina ( Rina Tsugami ) has fallen for a fraudulent cult and is about to give away the family-owned inn. And so it is time for the Special Actors to sneak undercover into the cult and free Rina …
Shinichirô Ueda had already made several short and feature films when he suddenly achieved an absolute sensation in 2018. One Cut of the Dead not only became a coveted festival entry, but also a real box office hit in Japan. The film was in the domestic top 10 for many weeks, grossing over 25 million dollars in the end – very considerable for a no-name zombie comedy. The highlight was that in a mediocre first half the event was turned upside down. What initially looked like a cheap C-movie turned into a declaration of love for filmmaking, the charm of which one could hardly escape.
The expectations of his follow-up work Special Actors were correspondingly high. That also ran at some well-known festivals, in Germany the premiere will take place at the Nippon Connection 2021 . However, the film has not received much attention over the past year and a half, neither at home nor internationally. The comedy has taken on various qualities of the zombie spectacle. For example, it is again a real teamwork if the story was developed together with the actors. And of course the love for filmmaking shimmers through again when Kazuto constantly watches an old superhero series and dreams of being one himself.
The fact that this triggered less strong reactions from the audience than One Cut of the Dead may also be due to the fact that there is no one surprising twist this time. Small twists and turns are part of the story. But they are so predictable that hardly anyone is likely to be overrun by them in a comparable way. Towards the end, Special Actors actually gets quite cumbersome. Kazuto's dream of the Rescue Man hadn't really been integrated harmoniously into the action before. The grand finale finally becomes a foreign body. The scene is also too long. It is unmistakable that everyone involved had fun while filming. It's just that it doesn't carry over so well to the audience.
But there are always scenes that are entertaining. The audacity with which the men and women of the cult proceed gives reasons to smile as well as the crude content they spread. Stupid, completely useless objects are being sold at moon prices, an alien deity is celebrating a birthday. And if you don't agree immediately, you will be changed through crude manipulations. It's all so absurd that you shouldn't really believe anything. In times of grotesque conspiracy theories, which are equally unscrupulous, often with financial ulterior motives, Special Actors has a terrifyingly real core.
The film is sympathetic anyway. The ensemble really wants what it's doing. You actually have the feeling of watching a group of friends here. The fact that the Special Actors' plan isn't really one is a bit of a disappointment. You could learn more from Ueda. For this, he has presented well in other respects: The beautifully weird idea of an agency that mediates someone for a wide variety of occasions – for example to clap at performances – would have the potential of a whole series. It is then easier to forgive that some things are not completely round, not pursued consistently enough and, in the end, many things look more like amateur theater than actual actors.
OT: "Special Actors"
Director: Shinichirô Ueda
Screenplay: Shinichirô Ueda
Music: Nobuhiro Suzuki, Shoma Ito
Camera: Takeshi Sone
Cast: Kazuto Osawa, Hiroki Kono, Takuya Fuji, Ayu Kitaura, Yosuke Ueda, Yumi Ogawa, Rina Tsugami
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