Film / Reviews

'AI Amok': Futuristic flick rehashes old tech

by James Hadfield

Contributing Writer

Anyone concerned about the rapid infiltration of technology into every aspect of daily life is unlikely to be further troubled by “AI Amok.”

Set in 2030, this dopey sci-fi flick depicts a near-future Japan in which people have entrusted their health, bank accounts and home appliances to a benevolent artificial intelligence system, named Nozomi after its creator’s late wife. Its architect, Kosuke Kiryu (Takao Osawa), left the country after the system went online — already too late, alas, to save his beloved spouse from cancer.

Everything seems to be going smoothly with Nozomi until Kosuke returns to collect an honorary prize, only for the AI system to go haywire and start threatening to eliminate every citizen who isn’t pulling their weight. Kosuke finds himself accused of cyberterrorism, while his daughter, Kokoro (Sora Tamaki), accidentally gets locked in the server room as the clock counts down to “AI-mageddon.”

AI Amok (Eai Hokai)
Rating
Run Time 131 mins.
Language JAPANESE
Opens NOW SHOWING

The noble scientist goes on the run, aided by some very convenient plot devices and pursued by a “genius” cop (Takanori Iwata) with smart-guy spectacles and an all-seeing AI of his own. There’s also an old-school detective on the case, Kyoichi Goda (Tomokazu Miura), who is seemingly the only person on the force who doesn’t have a Bluetooth earpiece constantly wedged in one ear.

It’s all very redolent of Steven Spielberg’s “Minority Report” (2002), right down to the bug-like drones that keep popping up at inopportune moments, though the film’s futurology is rather less considered. The haphazard production design features a few flashy touches, notably an autonomous car with gull-wing doors and a holographic driver, alongside obviously late-2010s tech.

A decade from now, print media is still alive and well, and Kosuke manages to hack someone using the information on their name card. Perhaps the most far-out innovation is that Japan’s prime minister is a woman, although sadly she doesn’t stick around for long.

Working from his original screenplay — a rarity for a film with this kind of budget — director Yu Irie takes a dystopian premise worthy of Netflix sci-fi series “Black Mirror” and forces it to conform to the conventions of mainstream Japanese cinema. The action scenes get progressively less exciting, peaking early with a chase sequence in which Kosuke has to outwit pervasive surveillance cameras and an AI that can predict his next move. The film culminates in a stand-off in which the emphasis is very much on standing, and you know who the real villain is the moment they first appear onscreen.

Nonetheless, “AI Amok” is snappy and silly enough to be fun to watch, preferably on a plane while slightly drunk. Osawa is reliably stolid as the scientist hero, and Miura brings some welcome personality as Kyoichi. Iwata, who’s required to deliver most of his dialogue while staring into the distance, seems to be auditioning to play a computer. More charismatic actors, including Nanako Matsushima, Kimiko Yo and Tina Tamashiro, are mostly wasted in minor parts.

For all the ungainliness of the dialogue, in which every second line seems to be jargon or exposition, Irie’s script doesn’t get overburdened with subplots in the way many book-to-film adaptations do. Yet, it doesn’t take much intelligence — artificial or otherwise — to spot the many plot holes and absurdities. “AI Amok” is as cerebral as a conversation with a Pepper robot, but if you’re looking for an uncomplicated diversion, you could do far worse.

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