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The Magic Hour

The kind of slavish homage to cinema itself that’s not quite as charming as it thinks but charms nonetheless, Koki Mitani’s "The Magic Hour" echoes "Tropic Thunder" in that it involves actors performing for an alleged movie, unaware they’re in the middle of dangerous real-life situations.

With:
With: Koichi Sato, Satoshi Tsumbuki, Eri Fukatsu, Toshiyuki Nishida, Haruka Ayase, Fumiyo Kohinata, Susumu Terajima, Keiko Toda, Goru Ibuki, Kazuyuki Asano, Manjiro Ichimura, Shinichi Yanagisawa

The kind of slavish homage to cinema itself that’s not quite as charming as it thinks but charms nonetheless, Koki Mitani’s “The Magic Hour” echoes “Tropic Thunder” in that it involves actors performing for an alleged movie, unaware they’re in the middle of dangerous real-life situations. Otherwise, this affectionate paean to classic gangster and romance pics is a different animal. Plush pic could be tighter, but it’s a crowdpleaser with arthouse and ancillary appeal for select territories.

Hapless Bingo (Satoshi Tsumbuki) is caught canoodling with yakuza boss Teshio’s (Toshiyuki Nishida) petulant mistress, Mari (Eri Fukatsu). It’s curtains until Bingo fibs, saying he can introduce the chief to the legendary, elusive “Phantom Assassin.” His solution is to hire stuntman/wannabe star Murata (Koichi Sato) to play the hitman for an imaginary film shoot. While the thesp thinks he’s performing for screen glory, he’s really risking his neck, flashing cliche macho bravado around Teshio & Co. Some of this farcical material is hilarious; other aspects are just cute, but it all goes down easy in the glossy production package.

The Magic Hour

Japan

Production: A Fuji Television Network, Toho production of a Cine Bazar production. (International sales: Pony Canyon, Tokyo.) Produced by Chihiro Kameyama, Yoshishige Shimatani. Executive producers, Takashi Ishihara, Kenji Shimizu, Minami Ichikawa. Co-producer, Yumiko Shigeoka, Kuga Maeda, Kazutoshi Wadakura. Directed, written by Koki Mitani.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Hideo Yamamoto; editor, Soichi Ueno; music, Kiyoko Ogino; production designer, Yohei Taneda. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (noncompeting), Aug. 22, 2008. Original title: Za majikku awa. Running time: 136 MIN.

With: With: Koichi Sato, Satoshi Tsumbuki, Eri Fukatsu, Toshiyuki Nishida, Haruka Ayase, Fumiyo Kohinata, Susumu Terajima, Keiko Toda, Goru Ibuki, Kazuyuki Asano, Manjiro Ichimura, Shinichi Yanagisawa

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