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Bob Doto [Film Festival 06.21.09] movie review thriller

Year: 2008
Directors: Nelson Yu Lik-wai
Writers: Nelson Yu Lik-wai & Fernando Bonassi & Fendou Liu
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Bob Doto
Rating: 6 out of 10

PLASTIC CITY is a film about a young man named Kirin (Joe Odagiri) dealing with the future of his knock-off business inherited from his adoptive father, Yuda (Anthony Wong), who is an aging dealer in faux merch, the kind you're inevitably buying on Canal St. in NYC. Kirin's father is simultaneously a strong-arm, and a sad case of lost-his-edge. Interesting and behind-the-scenes politics abound in this world of Chinese / Japanese society living in Brazilian society making for an identity politics mash-up tossed into a corrupt cop salad.

PLASTIC CITY is filmed from a cool distance dipped in warm tones uncommon for scenes set in the sometimes gritty indoor mall-ness of Sao Paolo. At times Brazil's seedy smuggling underbelly felt almost cozy, like a place you'd want to lay your head down for a Sunday afternoon nap. Mixed with overhead panoramas of Amazonian jungle, scenes inside strip clubs and warehouses come across as “natural” environments only complimenting the animalia of the Amazon.

As a narrative the conflict in the film is set up to be between Kirin's father and his fake goods business and Kirin himself who possibly wants out the trade, maybe to be with his also soon-to-be-out-of-the-biz stripper girlfriend, but ultimately we're not sure what Kirin wants, which in turn becomes the real conflict: What the hell does Kirin want?

It's hard to tell what Kirin wants both because I'm not sure he knows what he wants, but also, and I think this might be the true reason, the film is shot so as to never linger in any one place over any one piece of dialogue for very long. Rarely do we get a chance to hang out with any of the characters so as to maybe get a better understanding of who they are in the world. In one sense this is a nice touch, which mirrors the way we may experience people around us—snippets of overheard conversation that we inevitably create stories and subsequent judgments from. The problem is, however, I could do that all day riding the subway. Why must I continue to do it in the theater?

Is reliving life-as-alienation a good thing or a bad thing? Should I expect director Yu Lik-wai to fill the void of alienated life just because I'm too shy to speak to my fellow strap-hangers? Not sure. Perhaps what I witnessed in PLASTIC CITY was, what fancy reviewers like to call, a "portrait" or "snapshot." Film can never replace reality, so why even try, right? Then why create films that draw us so close, and in such a "this is how it is," fashion as to suggest that what we are witnessing is in fact something real, when in the end we are shown only so much as slips through the fingers in the director’s hand?

Over all I liked this film. It’s obviously a fine piece of cinema, with a strong cast set in a complex world of symbols and stories. I simply would’ve liked to see more, and less through a veil of saturated colors.

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Gina Wong (12 years ago) Reply

This is the best review of the film I've read.Your review pointed out some weaknesses of the film without being unneceesarily nasty but gives credit where it's due. I too, think that the director have all the setting to tell a good and tight story of the father and son relationship. All in all an ambitious film, could have a stronger script but acting was first class and so was the cinematography.

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