Toshiaki Toyoda's latest is an insinuating oddity that throws together yakuza types and a rock-star-like cult leader.
The latest from idiosyncratic Nipponese helmer Toshiaki Toyoda (“Blue Spring,” “Hanging Garden”), “I’m Flash!” is an insinuating oddity that throws together yakuza types and a rock-star-like cult leader. Enigmatic narrative, absurdist humor and a striking package make this a rarefied curio that will delight some viewers and baffle or bore others. Already one of the writer-helmer’s most successful pics at home, thanks to some cast names, it’s a wild card for offshore distribs that will eventually find its own cult following in home formats.
Young Master Rui (Tatsuya Fujiwara) is the handsome, charismatic leader of a quasi-religious/self-help church called “Life Is Beautiful,” founded by his grandmother. His mother (Michiyo Okusu) and sister (Mayu Harada) maintain waspish control over the business/marketing side of things; a brother (Yukiya Kitamura) transitioning to womanhood drily observes his sibling’s ebbing moral and spiritual health.
Indeed, Rui has grown quite cynical about his job, spending too much time partying and womanizing. Both have finally landed him in serious trouble: A girl he picked up at a bar lies comatose in a hospital after an accident involving his sports car and a now-dead motorcyclist. That fateful ride, in which Rui’s date (Kiko Mizuhara) revealed an ominous pre-existing agenda, unfolds in flashbacks throughout.
But most of the film takes place in the present tense, as Rui hides from police and media at his rather lavish seaside manse. Newly hired as bodyguards are three enforcers who have never met before: a grizzled, coarse underworld veteran (Shigeru Nakano of long-running punk band Anarchy); a punky, impetuous young thug (Kento Nagayama); and a cucumber-cool number (Ryuhei Matsuda) who doesn’t bat an eye at their host’s eccentricities — or possibly at anything, ever.
The precise point here is unclear, and some will find “I’m Flash!” a tease with little tangible substance. But Toyoda keeps things consistently intriguing, particularly on an aesthetic level. From striking locations to fanciful design contributions, everything looks great in Toyotaro Shigemori’s anamorphic lensing; a good instrumental rock score by an all-star ensemble assembled for the film heightens the general aura of coolness.