by Chris MaGee
"Hula Girls" is one of the most popular, crowd-pleasing, feel good... and downright boring films that has come out of Japan in the past decade, which is a bit of a shame because its director, 35-year-old Sang-Il Lee, is a very competent young director with films like "69" and "Scrap Heaven" under his belt. Even with those films preceding "Hula Girls" in Lee's filmography it would have been hard to guess that he would go from a sickly sweet story about hula dancing in a mining town in Fukushima to the story of a sociopathic killer. Well, that's exactly what he's done with his upcoming adapation of Akutagawa-prize-winning author Shuichi Yoshida's 2007 serialiazed novel "Akunin (Villain)".
The novel centers around a lonely young blue-collar worker in Nagasaki named Yuichi who for unknown reasons kills a woman who he meets through a dating service. Yuichi's crime is so spontaneous, so random though that police have a hard time tracking him down as a suspect. The novel explores what could have led this young man to commit such a grisly crime.
I told you it was a 180 degree turn for Lee, but it isn't just Lee who's trying for a career makeover with "Akunin". Starring in the role of Yuichi is 28-year-old actor Satoshi Tsumabuki, better known for his romantic and comedic turns in such films as "Waterboys", "Tears for You", and "The Magic Hour" (as well as Lee's "69"). Tsumabuki is already sporting a severe-looking blonde dye job for this role and if that promo still above is any indicator he's making a concerted effort to shuffle off his old persona.
Tsumabuki" will also star actress Eri Fukatsu and is slated for a late 2010 release. Thanks to Cinematoday.jp and Tokyograph for the details on this.