(director/writer: Philip Kaufman; screenwriters: Michael Crichton/Michael Backes/based on the novel by Mr. Crichton; cinematographer: Michael Chapman; editors: Stephen A. Rotter/William S. Scharf; music: Toru Takemitsu; cast: Sean Connery (John Connor), Wesley Snipes (Web Smith), Harvey Keitel(Tom Graham), Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Eddie Sakamura), Kevin Anderson (Bob Richmond), Mako (Yoshida-san), Ray Wise (Senator John Morton), Tia Carrere (Jingo Asakuma), Tatjana Patitz (Cheryl Lynn Austin), Steve Buscemi (Willy ‘the Weasel’ Wilhelm); Runtime: 125; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Peter Kaufman; 20th Century Fox; 1993)
“It never rises past a second-rate thriller.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Philip Kaufman (“Henry and June”/”The Unbearable Lightness of Being”/”The Right Stuff”) directs this complex plotted thriller that reflects the tense attitudes between those ruthless Japanese businessmen from the land of the rising sun and those greedy American businessmen lounging in the sun in LaLa land. It smacks of a racist attitude held by the Americans toward the Japanese, that I’m told the film considerably softens from the controversial book’s heavy-hitting anti-Japanese attitude–at least, it tones down the racism by focusing the main thrust of the story on the threat of aggressive Japanese capitalists against the unprepared American capitalists. The Japanese think the Americans are dull-witted in not realizing they’re involved in a business war. It’s based on the bestselling 1992 novel by Michael Crichton and is written by Michael Backes.
A white party girl/prostitute, Cheryl Austin (Tatjana Patitz),the sex toy of the connected to the Japanese industrialists playboy Eddie Sakamura (Carey-Hiroyuki Tagawa), is found dead in the office building of the Japanese conglomerate Nakamoto, who were giving a party and Cheryl was one of the invited guests. Cheryl‘s found strangled atop a table in the boardroom of Nakamoto‘s Los Angeles headquarters. Her murder is investigated by the LAPD. The boorish Lt. Graham (Harvey Keitel) is first on the crime scene and because of his racist attitude rushes to judgment to pin the murder on someone Japanese like Eddie. Eddie is blamed for the crime when he appears on a DVD committing the killing, which was taken on hidden cameras placed in the board room to monitor the activities of company rivals.
The official murder investigation is carried out by Special Service liaison officer Lt. Web Smith (Wesley Snipes) and he is partnered with the older and wiser semi-retired Special Service LA cop and noted expert on Japanese culture Captain John Connor(Sean Connery). Web was ordered to team up with Connor by his police superiors, who received a call from Nakamoto and honored their request. The duo trying to make sense of the murder are wading their way through the world of big business intrigue and high tech, and in the process of their investigation were handed a DVD of the murder by someone associated with Nakamoto.
Throughout the investigation the older and wiser Connery character lectures the younger Snipes’ character on the Japanese culture and supplies pithy aphorisms, all of which makes this murder story point more to being a case against corrupt corporate capitalism than a xenophobic tale aimed at ripping the Japanese because of their race. The detectives by going with the “Blow-Up” way of looking at a murder investigation, look carefully at the disc with their techie experts. They determine that Nakamoto’s CEO (Mako), his ambitious assistant (Stan Egi) and the company’s asshole American white facilitator (Kevin Anderson) have found a way to blackmail sleazebag Senator John Morton (Ray Wise), who was at the party and was involved with the dead whore. They somehow persuade the senator to change his vote and sign on for a deal he was just firmly against involving Nakamoto and a small American computer chip company pedaling to the Japanese their software, a possible military security risk to America.
It never rises past a second-rate thriller or weakly structured political conspiracy flick, but it’s entertaining due to the talented cast keeping things alive even when the director flattens out the suspense with too many plot holes and cheesy responses that keep things confusing and too slick for its own good.
The film turns out to be like a comical Congressional study about testy American-Japanese trade relations and the unscrupulous practices of the Japanese to gain an unfair edge. Tia Carrere plays the geeky techie, whose father was an African-American and her mother Japanese. The stigmatized mixed breed could be the romantic interest of either Web or Connor, not that it really matters (or that even the murder in this flick matters). In any case, Tia’s just thrown into the mix as another lecture point about recent Japanese history. This is a film whose universe is almost as unrealistic as the one where Connery as Bond used to operate and like that series, entertainment is also this film’s main object and not necessarily knowledge or any higher aims.
REVIEWED ON 2/26/2011 GRADE: B-