With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

ACF 545: K-20 available today on DVD

K-20: The Fiend With Twenty Faces
(K-20: Kaijin niju menso den)
Written and Directed by Shimako Sato
Japan, 2008, 137 min.

K-20: The Fiend With Twenty Faces comes out today in a single disc DVD edition from VIZ Pictures. It has an MSRP of $24.92 U.S. / $35.99 CAN. Based on the novel Kaijin Niju menso den by Soh Kitamura and set in 1949, the story employs an alternate history motif in which the Japan never attacked Pearl Harbor and engaged in war with the United States. The island nation has an extremely rigid, hereditary class system with almost all the wealth held by a small aristocracy.

In the imperial capital of Teito, a phantom thief known as "K-20," or the "Fiend (Kaijin) with 20 Faces," steals priceless objects from the rich. However, unlike Robin Hood, he does not give to the poor, but keeps his trove to himself.

Takeshi Kaneshiro stars not as K-20, but as Heikichi, a circus acrobat and illusionist. The title character actually appears very little in the film. He does set up Endo to be mistakenly identified and arrested as K-20, and the movie is thus about Endo's efforts to prove that he's not the master thief.

Endo's nemesis is detective Kogoro Akechi (Toru Nakumura), who is also a baron and thus a member of the nobility. Romantic interest for the two male leads is supplied by lovely Takako Matsu as Duchess Yolko Hashiba, the heir to Hashiba Industries.

The film has a beautiful Steampunk look that could have gone murky in the transfer to DVD. Thankfully it hasn't, as VIZ Pictures has done an outstanding job in maintaining detail in the many shadowy scenes. Writer/director Sato has done a masterful job moving things along and providing great action sequences. This is the first film I can recall seeing in which Kaneshiro (Chungking Express, House of Flying Daggers, and most recently John Woo's Red Cliff) carries the film as the dominant male lead, and he's more than equal to the task.

The DVD doesn't have much in the way of extras, just the original and the English trailers and some trailers from other VIZ films. But don't let that dissuade you from buying this release.

K-20 is terrific entrainment, and gets an ACF rating of 3.5 out of 4 stars, very highly recommended.

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