Made In Japan

A head-spinning calamity of mixed messages, clashing tones, and jumping genres, Yojiro Takita's action-comedy-melodrama Made In Japan skewers and embraces the Japanese business ethic, views a developing nation as both charmingly rustic and irredeemably savage, and changes in a cut from lighthearted to bloody. Originally released in 1993, the film's interest in corporate globalization gives it just as much resonance today, provided that anyone can sort out exactly what it's trying to say. In the first half, Takita lampoons four hapless drones in business suits, company men whose excessive devotion to the workplace has wreaked havoc on their family life and aided in the exploitation of Third World nations. In the second, this same corporate mindset leads to their ultimate survival, promoting a sense of teamwork, collective ingenuity, and nationalist pride. So which is it? Column A or Column B? The confusion begins when Hiroyuki Sanada, a low-ranking official for the Sansei Construction Company, is dispatched to the developing Southeast Asian country of Talckistan, where a military regime is accepting bids on a lucrative bridge project. Joined by Sansei comrade Tsutomu Yamazaki, a senior executive who has been laying the groundwork for three years, Sanada pitches his design against two suave dirty dealers (Ittoku Kishibe and Kyusaku Shimada) from a competing firm. When guerrilla fighters stage the umpteenth coup attempt on the regime, the four men band together in an intrepid effort to get out of the country, crossing through 10 kilometers of street fighting and mine-filled jungle to reach the airport. Along the way, Made In Japan alternates wacky slapstick comedy with gratuitous low-grade action footage, following a broad Abbott & Costello bit involving a giant snake with the graphic slaughter of a farming village by a military helicopter. Of the film's few laughs, most wind up sticking in the throat, muted by the unpleasantness that follows. There's potent satire lurking somewhere in this mess, but without first identifying a target, Takita doesn't stand a chance of hitting it.

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