Goemon (2009)

Yôsuke Eguchi, Takao Ohsawa, Ryôko Hirosue, Jun Kaname,
Based on a Japanese folk legend that echoes the tale of Robin Hood, this ninja thriller follows the exploits of Goemon Ishikawa (Y?suke Eguchi), who leaves his fighting clan after its chief is murdered and uses his skills as a thief
  • 6.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Tetsurô Takita, Writer:
  • Kazuaki Kiriya, Director:
  • Takashige Ichise, Producer:

Trailer:

5 / 10

It had potential...

"Goemon" was a movie that I had really looked forward to watching, after having found it by sheer luck on Amazon and then read reviews about it.

And having seen it now, I feel somewhat disillusioned. The story was great, a really well-thought and detailed story. But the movie was weighed down heavily by really, really bad CGI effects. And also weighed down by having a tendency of dragging on unnecessarily in various parts.

Story-wise, then "Goemon" was a rather nice treat. There is a lot of levels to the story, and also a really great plot that offers some nice surprises along the way.

As for the people cast for the movie, well they did great jobs with their characters and they put on good acting performances. The characters in the movie were well-detailed and vibrant, they were believable and nuanced.

Despite all that things that "Goemon" tried to accomplish, it didn't fully pack enough punch to make a lasting impression on me, and it came off as a mediocre movie, unfortunately. Why? Well because it dragged on quite long and the CGI in the scenes was so bad that it was a downright eyesore to behold.

8 / 10

A Nutshell Review: Goemon

Mention Kazuaki Kiriya, and Casshern inevitably comes to mind. After all, that's the only feature film he had done since, and it comes with plenty of CG used to create backdrops which no longer existed, and effects used to overload the senses, making what's on screen seem very much like a computer generated comic book, with characters possessing superhuman prowess that are of course second nature since nothing is impossible in the virtual world. I had the opportunity to view this film on board an airplane, but it's a good thing I held out in the hopes that it'll make it to the big screen here, since Kiriya brings back the same technical formula for the telling of his tale of legendary ninja bandit Goemon Ishikawa.

Played by Yosuke Eguchi in the titular role, the folklore of Goemon is just like that of Robin Hood, where a man of nobility becomes the bandit of the land, robbing the rich and distributing the wealth obtained to the poor to ensure the narrowing of the rich-poor divide. With each retelling the legend just grows, so much that there's no more a definitive version of the story, but stories which build upon one another to bring out the flavour and characterization of a known hero in 16th century Japan, where feuding warlords ensure that peace is but a buzzword of a promise yet to be fulfilled to their people. This of course allows Kiriya to heap on loads of artistic license in his tale, which is relatively complete with an origin story, political intrigue, a romance and plenty of fight sequences which will make the action junkie in you whoop for joy.

Which of course is the mainstay for anyone who's watching this. Almost all the battle sequences here are far out and CG enhanced with steroids, ranging from huge armies squaring off, or individual one on one battles with out of this world weapons and moves, reliant on dizzying camera work to bring out the dexterity of the combatants, that you're left gasping for air sometimes as it loops all around the action. If there's a minor gripe, then it'll be moments where such powers get forgotten, which of course helps the narrative at its convenience, otherwise we'll be faced with an indestructible superman that will make it rather boring.

Themes of friendship, loyalty, betrayal and vengeance become staple in this period fantasy film, especially when we learn of Goemon's allies, which include his ninjitsu peer Saizo, played by Takao Osawa whom I thought resonated more with the story given the plight he got put through. Also, the episode with Saizo highlights how Kiriya focused a little more on the emotional aspects of the characters involved in its more dramatic moments, and the writer-director's knack of fusing together historical events (such as the Battle of Sekigahara and the ascension of the Ieyasu Tokugawa) and personnel into the narrative, making it a richer experience for the audience, and lending itself some grandeur in terms of epicness

Despite clocking slightly over two hours, there are enough twists and turns here given changing loyalties, and supporting role appearances by other legendary characters such as Hattori Hanzo (Susumu Terajima) the famed swordsman. Ryoko Hirosue has a flower vase role here as the love interest of Goemon who decided to do a noble thing of being sacrificed as a concubine of the deranged warlord, but does little else other than to continue reminding Goemon how infatuated he is with her.

The initial moments do require some getting used to as the visuals are built upon CG created landscapes, but it'll soon build on you that without which a film like this could probably not be easily made. It's Kazuaki Kiriya's signature visual style, and I had enjoyed Goemon very much so when it found some balance between its action scenes, and its dramatic moments. Just so you know if I have to choose my favourite fight sequence, it'll have to be Goemon and Hattori's duel in the last act, which showed why one is master over the other.

7 / 10

OK that was surprisingly awesome

Like I was, maybe you aren't expecting much more than a flashy fantasy action flick to dazzle a few brain cells for 2 hours. Certainly the DVD cover, the IMDb description, and the first 15-20 minutes of the film fulfills that expectation: we get a lot of action sequences following our hero Goemon, the legendary 16th century Japanese Robin Hood character, as he performs rapid fire feats of martial arts & agility that would make Superman turn in his cape. (Aside: we'll talk about the controversial cgi in a minute, let's focus on story first.)

But what begins as a seemingly predictable comic book tale of good vs evil becomes a much more complex epic saga, as characters' loyalties and motivations change, as secrets are revealed, and as the characters themselves evolve and question their own actions, showing us that this is far more than a mindless good vs. evil tale. I won't ruin who's-who, but I'll say by far my favorite character dynamic is the complex relationship between Goemon and his antagonist Saizo. At first it seems like a straightforward hunt to the death, but buckle your seatbelt because it has a lot of unexpected twists & turns, culminating in an awesome, climactic scene.

Similarly, as the story twists & turns, the it takes on the air of a political thriller where the answers aren't as simple as you'd expected. Don't worry if you're not up to speed on 16th century feudal Japanese politics: the power struggle is frighteningly familiar and applicable today, 500 years later. Of course don't let the political angle scare you off, because it's still rooted in action/fantasy with plenty of eye candy visuals if that's all you want.

Which leads us to the controversial use of cgi... Yes, there's tons of cgi, and yes the film was made in 2009 when cgi wasn't very realistic looking. So you might find yourself distracted by the video game look of the action scenes. But I think the video game look is exactly what the filmmakers were going for. But in this film's defense, it was a bold stylistic choice in league with other heavy-cgi flicks like "Sky Captain" (2004), "Sin City" (2005), or the French flick "Immortal" (2004), which were the first films to depart entirely from traditional location filmmaking techniques in favor of green screen and post production. Here in "Goemon" we have a similar hyper-stylized look that's not necessarily supposed to seem realistic, and that could be a plus or a minus depending on how you like your flicks.

The bottom line is that the story and character development, not the look, is what really impressed me about "Goemon". It raised this seemingly simple action romp to an epic scale. In that respect (not visually) I would compare it to Zhang Yimou's "Hero" (2002) another surprisingly complex story proceeding from the simple premise of an assassin sent to kill a ruthless Emperor.

7 / 10

CG Ninjas

"You can't flee anymore. Not from your destiny."

Goemon is a fun, bloody martial arts epic. It's a story of betrayal and revenge, set after the death of Lord Nobunaga and (very) loosely based on the life of the real Ishikawa Goemon. Don't worry though, you don't have to be steeped in Japanese history to enjoy it.

I won't go into detail about the twisting, turning story. It's interesting enough, but many characters are introduced without much info or background. Luckily, it's easy to keep up with who's good and bad, and the central characters are fleshed out to an acceptable degree to make them matter to the audience.?

The more divisive element of Goemon is the heavy use of special effects. Most of the sets and action are all CG, very much like Sucker Punch. And not as well done. While this gives Goemon a unique look quite different from the bold colors and elegant action of many modern martial arts epics, it also makes the movie look frantic and artificial. It's really like watching a video game, at times. That didn't bother me much as Goemon went on, but cleaner, better implemented special effects would have made this an even more enjoyable film. The costumes are great, though, which is always important in flicks like these.

I liked Goemon. It felt a bit long (the last half of the movie could have lost 10-15 minutes, easily), but I was never bored. The actors and actresses are nothing less than competent, even in some of the more over-the-top roles. And there are some very pretty actresses involved, if that kind of thing interests you (it does in my case). I recommend it to anyone who is fine with a more CG-heavy spin on historical Japanese fantasy warfare.

9 / 10

Ninja action galore

Goemon is the movie that make me see Japanese film industry in a different angles cause back when I was young in my mind a stunning big budget movie that heavily on the special effects can only pull off by none other than Hollywood so to see a epic ninja movie that look like an anime movie or to be more accurate:"The longest game cutscene ever" is pretty mind blowing at the time.When I look back at Goemon now in 2018 the special effects definitely look dated and sometime laughable but the move itself still an over the top ride with all kind of cool stuff so check it out