Friday, August 22, 2008

REVIEW: Rainbow Kids - Kihachi Okamoto (1990)

Reviewed by Bob Turnbull

I've had "Rainbow Kids" (a 1990 film by Kihachi Okamoto) on deck for quite some time now, but have been a bit leery of popping it in the old DVD player. It was one of 4 movies included in a cut rate "Toho Live Action Films" package I had picked up awhile ago whose first two offerings ("My Secret Cache" and "All About My House") were both quite the lousy experiences. For some reason though, our editor here in the JFilm offices felt that we needed "new" content on the site (geez, that guy is picky) so I had to grab something. As it turns out, even though the film starts off a tad shaky with a flat made-for-TV-movie feel to it and some cheesy late 80s music, it works its warmth on the viewer and actually manages to engage you in the characters and story.

It starts out with a reunion of three small time crooks after two of them are released from short stints in prison. Burglary just doesn't seem to be their forte, so their nominal leader suggests a new plan - kidnapping. Specifically, snatching the area's richest woman (a kind-hearted 80 year old who is fondly remembered by the gang leader from his days in an orphanage) for a large ransom demand from her own children. These weren't the sharpest guys in the cell block, but the plan seems simple enough. Slowly things get set in motion as they stake out her place, develop the plan and wait for her to leave the house. But once they grab her, she begins to effect their strategies - even suggesting a good place for them to hideout. They become her "attendants" and everything they do begins to be controlled by her charming but firm ways. Not just their chores around the house, but the amount of the actual ransom demand (100 times more than they were thinking) and the methods of contact with the police. Why is she making things easier for these criminals? Is it simply to make them let their guards down or does she have grander plans?

Along with this mystery, we begin to get a bit of a heist film. As the police begin to follow their trail and the woman's remaining children are brought in to decide on how to get the ransom, the group plot their recovery of the vast amount of cash. The details are nicely held back to make the final reveals more entertaining. Though there's not a great deal of grand cinematic moments, the editing is nicely handled with occasional flashbacks (one of which is in pencil animation) and scene setting cuts. It's unexpected touches of these types that help make this story even more enjoyable. Throw in some solid performances (particularly by Ken Ogata as the police inspector and Tanie Kitabayashi as the respected old lady) and you have a film whose warmth and characters slowly reel you in.

Read more from Bob Turnbull at his blog.

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