Film / Reviews

'108: Revenge and Adventure of Goro Kaiba': Matsuo fails to keep up the laughs

by Mark Schilling

Contributing Writer

Suzuki Matsuo fits the definition of “multitalented” to a T, though his acting, directing and writing usually have laughter as an object. And while now a showbiz elder — he has been managing his Otono Keikaku theater troupe since 1988 — Matsuo still has a wild hair or two, as if youthful comedian John Belushi had made it to grizzled middle age.

Like his other three features as a director, his new film, “108: Revenge and Adventure of Goro Kaiba,” has an original, if bizarre, premise and a patchy execution.

But unlike in “A Farewell to Jinu” (2015), “Welcome to the Quiet Room” (2007) and “Otakus in Love” (2004), Matsuo himself plays the lead. He is Goro Kaiba, a successful scriptwriter who discovers that his wife, Ayako (Miho Nakayama), has been having an affair with a “contemporary dancer,” poetically named Doctor Snake (Naoki Inui). Snake’s sculpted body, hot glances and sexy moves give his many female admirers the flutters — and enrage Kaiba when he views them on YouTube.

108: Revenge and Adventure of Goro Kaiba (Kaiba Goro no Fukushu to Boken)
Rating
Run Time 102 mins.
Language JAPANESE
Opens OCT. 25

Kaiba and Ayako seem primed to go to comic war like Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner’s quarreling couple in “The War of the Roses” (1989). But Matsuo, who also wrote the script, gives us nothing as commonplace as a bitter marital battle over who gets the house.

Seeing 108 “likes” for Ayako’s declaration of love to Snake on her anonymous (but easily unmasked) Facebook page, Kaiba has the crazy idea of bedding 108 women while his wife is off with her lover on a monthlong tour. In the course of these revels, he plans to spend his ¥10 million in savings so that, when they divorce, the cheating Ayako gets half of nothing.

At this point, your sympathy for our hero may have understandably plunged off a cliff.

To me, this sounds like the set-up for a pinku (soft porn) comedy from a decade ago — well before the advent of #MeToo. A louse he may be, our hero is also an unfit man in his 50s whose plotted revenge is as laughably idiotic as a weekend hiker’s assault on Mount Everest. Also, Kaiba happens to still love his wife, so his first assignations with cheap, if loquacious, hookers leave him mentally in knots and physically spent. Pleasure derived: zero.

Rather than cut his losses, Kaiba escalates, first by hiring the ¥150,000-per-session Azusa (Shiori Doi), a statuesque pro who promises ecstasy that will overwhelm his qualms. When that fails, Kaiba decides to bring in outside help, including a reprobate pal (Hideto Iwai) and an unctuous blond bar host (Shunsuke Daito) of Azusa’s acquaintance.

The film’s comic strategy is that of the pie-throwing battles in the silents: If one pie in the face — or panting body in bed — is funny, 50 are funnier. But along the way to the film’s ultimate orgy (or rather dozens of naked actors slithering and sliding in a pond of lubricant) the laughs fade.

Also, though madly talented, Matsuo is prone to overdoing it as an actor — perhaps an influence from his stage plays, where the funny business has to carry to the back rows. Watching his frantic exertions, I wondered if he would make it to the end of certain scenes without the aid of a respirator — or an ambulance. Thankfully, his character’s last “adventure” is not in the emergency room.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5