K-20: Legend of the Mask


Reviewed by: sukting

June 23, 2009

Rating: three

How long
2 hours

Foreword

It is a novel by So Kitamura. It is set in a Japanese city in 1949. A crafty criminal, k-20 frames a victim by stealing art and antiques from the wealthy people. The gap between the rich and poor is wide. Is there a way to reduce the gap?

Story

Akechi (Kanata Hongo) is a brilliant detective and also a baron. His approaching wedding is the talk of the town. He is trying to solve cases with his assistant Kobayashi (Hongo Kanata). There is a criminal known as “The Fiend (Kaijin) With Twenty Faces” or simply “K-20″. k-20 changes his appearances frequently and targets the rich repeatedly for his thefts. He has wanted a power device that can control the whole city. Thus he steals it at a demonstration.

Endo (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is an acrobat in a circus, struggling to keep ends meet. He is worried when they earn little but the ringmaster is sick, unable to afford fees to see a doctor. One day, a mysterious man (Takeshi Kaga) approaches him to take engagment photos of Akechi and Duchess Yoko (Takako Matsu) for his magazine. He gives Endo a camera. Endo takes up the assignment to pay the medical bills, climbing to the top of the church to snap a photo.

At the same time, an explosion occurs in the church after he uses the camera. He falls all the way to the ground and the couple is shocked. An antique is stolen and despite Endo protesting his innocence, Inspector Namikoshi (Toru Masuoka) insists that he is k-20. Yoko is the heir to Hashiba Enterprises and is very rich. However, she has a sweet personality and treats all her servants well.

When Endo is in the cell, a cell mate reveals that he has seen k-20 before so Endo is obviously not him. K-20 has a big scar on the left side of his face. Endo realises that he is actually the mysterious man. Akechi’s popularity rises after this case as his career becomes more prestigious.

Endo claims that the name card that the mysterious man has given is in the circus when he can’t find it on him. Namikoshi accuses him of lying as the circus is burned down. Moreover, the name of the magazine agency is also fake so he will jail him as long as he wishes.

Endo escapes later with his magician colleague, Genji’s (Jun Kunimura) help but vows to unmask the real k-20 to prove his innocence. He is dismayed that all his colleagues become thieves to make a living in the slums. Genji is an expert – so is his wife, Kikuko (Reiko Takashima). Endo doesn’t want to become as low as them. However, he has to give in later upon seeing how they suffer from hunger.

Believing that Endo has exceptional ability and is sharp, Genji passes the book of crafts to him. Genji knows that he can’t master the skills completely but Endo should be able to do it. He trains by running in the city. Soon, Endo is able to run away from policemen as he often has a doctor robe with him. He also keeps a case with him all along. He can even impersonate Genji or disguise as an Indian.

Yoko is Akechi’s fiancee and wonders if her late grandfather has made the right choice of choosing Akechi as her future husband. Her maids assure her that she is making the correct decision as marriage is every woman’s dream. She finds him very cold. She misses her grandfather and recalls how he relates to her the importance of the painting that he owns and she should not lose it. She has entrusted Akechi to keep it in the police station. She feels lonely as Akechi has little time for her.

Yoko tries her wedding gown and finds the tailor odd. He turns out to be k-20 – the mysterious man and she tries to run away from him. Endo has been on the streets for long and comes to her aid but he is not k-20’s match. He keeps getting beaten so he knows that he must escape as the police come.

Yoko pleads with Endo to take her away. She holds on to him as he hangs off a building with his wire-reel gadget. He brings her to the slums. She is convinced that he isn’t k-20 as she sees the two men together earlier. Endo finds her bothering him when she keeps asking for shampoo and soap when having a bath. He and others don’t own them. Neither do they know what they are.

Frustrated that she doesn’t get her way, she makes her demands repeatedly. Endo charges into the bathroom, wanting to teach her a lesson. At this time, she stands up in the bathtub and he sees her nude. Genji finds them quiet and comes along. He too, has a nosebled with Endo after seeing her. The puzzling part is – she acts as if that nothing has happened when having a meal with them later!

Yoko is very innocent, wanting to send the poor children to the orphanages when seeing Endo with them. Living a life of luxury, she comes face to face with the harsh reality. Endo informs her that there is a big number in the city – how is she going to do it? Yoko then gets food for the orphans as she adapts to the life in the slums quickly. She has made a promise so she must fulfill it. The others are shocked to know her real identity after reading the newspapers.

Yoko recalls that her grandfather has given her a wooden block. Endo tries turning it but sees nothing in particular. Yoko looks at it again and exclaims that that is the floor of the security museum. She presumes that it can help to open the demonstration room at Hashiba enterprises. She realises that it contains nuclear power that can eliminate the world. But now the place is heavily guarded by policemen. There is no way that they can destroy it.

Endo starts to view her in a different light. Endo intends to get the painting back so she gets Endo and Genji to help her. She knows that k-20 will be eyeing it and she will be the next victim. She tries to stall Akechi as long as she can. Akechi finds it weird that she can stay in the slums for so long without informing him. Have a good laugh when she wants to dirty him with a cake by feigning to trip on the floor.

Akechi is skilful and the cake is in his hand. Yoko smiles awkwardly and pretends that the weather is hot, unbuttoning two buttons from her blouse and lies on the sofa. Akechi can never believe that a noble lady will become like this. Sensing that something is amiss, he rushes back to the police station.

Menawhile, Genji and Endo pretend to be mechanics to fix the lights at the police station. Only Kobayashi is there to receive them. Kikuko and the children pretend to belong to a church to sing to him so that they can open the safe. They are successful and roll the painting to put inside their mechanic box. They come to face Akechi but both walk calmly. Still, Akechi recognises them and handcuffs them up.

Yoko confesses that it is her doing. Endo convinces Akechi that he isn’t k-20. He agrees to clear his name. Endo races to find the connector that k-20 is also eyeing. It is locked up in the national security department. Akechi and Genji go to test the waters – both are dismayed on how tight the security is when a button is pressed. Suddenly, Akechi charges in, claiming that he is an imposter.

Sure enough, the first Akechi is Endo and he runs away for dear life. Genji then makes a quick check on the security system while Akechi takes as many photos of the plan as he can. They meet Yoko in the church later with the security map. Suddenly, k-20 appears and Akechi is shot while trying to protect Endo. He urges Endo to find the control and Yoko stays to take care of him. Before he goes, Genji gives him a gun.

Endo puts the block into the missing hole on the hall floor of Hashiba Enterprise. A large machine is formed. He is confronted by k-20 who appears with the device. Endo is ambushed to get hung in midair and k-20 reveals his identity. He is actually Akechi.

He pretended to get shot earlier. Endo finds it impossible as k-20 has the mysterious man’s face. Akechi then reveals the mysterious man’s mask. That is his favourite mask and he loves to use it more often than other masks. Why is he so agile although he belongs to the upper class? That is because he once belongs to the lower class and he buys over this status.

He has accumulated enough wealth so it is time to find a scapegoat. He chooses Endo after finding him so flexible. Endo is annoyed but can’t release himself from the strong fishing line. Akechi grabs Endo’s gun and fires shots into his body. He is pleased and sets the control on the machine, wanting to transfer money into his bank account.

To his dismay, it suddenly stops and Endo reappears again. Since Akechi knows how to do circus stunts, he also has his own way too. Like Akechi, Endo has faked his death by adding tomato sauce to himself. Genji has also given him his fake circus gun, just in case.

The trio have not trusted Akechi at all. Endo has suspected Akechi – thanks to Yoko’s help. When the tailor feels her waist, she finds his touch familiar. No other man has touched her. Akechi urges Endo to let him off as he is the only person who can prove his innocence. Does Endo want to continue to be a wanted man or return to the circus?

Endo still believes that he should live the way he should. If he is destined to be k-20, he accepts his fate. Seeing that the building is going for destruction, he urges Akechi to leave with him but he refuses. He still wants to work at his last chance. When it fails, the whole building exploded to pieces. Endo manages to get away with Yoko’s help as she drives a plane to save him out.

The two cops vow to seek revenge for Akechi after knowing his death. Yoko feels sorry that it ends this way but Endo believes that with the k-20 identity, he is still able to help the others. She bids him goodbye reluctantly but still continues her charity work.

Conclusion

Alert - This is not a sequel to Jim Carrey’s ‘The Mask’ even though it is called ‘Legend of the Mask’. It is my first time watching a Japanese super hero movie besides Ultraman. But this version obviously has an identity crisis as it has plenty of mixtures of foreign super heroes.

Takeshi’s Endo is acting like Batman, Zorro or Catwoman, appearing in his cloak and mask. Sometimes, he is like Spiderman as he runs on the rooftop with his spring load gun. He can also be considered as Robin Hood as he robs the rich to help the poor. But he is no super hero as he commits lots of mistakes. But truly, he shows off his dashing looks, agility in handling stunts and also credible acting here. He is a true legend for being charismatic on screen.

Takako’s Yoko is equally hilarious. Trapped in the elegant clothes, she has a strong, rebellious desire that demand to do something different. Who will expect her to fly a plane with such guts? The two look compatible and sweet together. As for Kanata, he has acted as villains in most dramas so I don’t find him extraordinary in here.

The special effects are no way close to Chinese martial arts films as they are somewhat basic. Still, it gives classy sets – to show the upper class. Especially on how Yoko is dressed by her maids at home as she lazily gets off from bed and walks gently to show her status.

It is silly and draggy at times and some of the jokes are flat. They are no comedians and they hardly please the crowd with their bland tone. Sometimes, I find it confusing as the dialogues are long. It seems that only Yoko’s speeches are short and easier to understand.

The ending is puzzling, though. No doubt Akechi is dead but Yoko is alive! Can’t she clear Endo’s name as a witness? But I guess she doesn’t want to leave a bad name under family pressure to be ridiculed for choosing the wrong man to get married so the secret remains.

I was told that the movie did not follow the original. But still, I enjoyed myself when watching it. It is quite entertaining as it mixes romance and adventure. If you are not over demanding, this movie shows the most handsome, respected and famous cast so I think most people will not miss it.

Sukting’s ratings :

On acting : *** (Scale of 5)

On story : *** (Scale of 5)


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