Ace Attorney DVD Review

Japanese film director Takashi Miike is really something else. He creates films like no one else on Earth and this is no doubt in part due to the sheer volume of work. Perhaps his skill is a direct result of what Malcolm Gladwell described in Outliers as the "10,000 hour rule". 

One particularly pleasing aspect of Miike's career is the sheer diversity of his portfolio. From the disturbing and overtly violent Ichi the Killer to the colourful, delightful and child-friendly Ninja Kids, Miike has shown that he is a master filmmaker regardless of genre. Enter Ace Attorney.

Based upon Capcom's series of Nintendo games, Gyakuten Saiban, tells the story of rookie defense solicitor, Phoenix Wright. In the near future mandate dictates that all trials, regardless of the severity of the charge, are to be dispensed with in a paltry 3 days. In his very first case, rookie defence attorney Phoenix Wright (Hiroki Narimiya) finds himself defending an old school friend, Larry Butz (Akiyoshi Kakao), who is charged with the murder of his ex-girflfriend. The story is somewhat of an amalgamation of a few of the cases from the first video game. While purists may not see this as a positive, it definitely assists in moving the story along at an exciting pace.

Of course, there's more to the story than this and more cases to be fought and this is where the fun comes from. It takes a special breed of filmmaker to make a courtroom setting enjoyable, not just enjoyable but lighthearted and fun! Frankly, the first case which outlines the murder of  young lady shouldn't have been as funny as it was. Writers Takeharu Sakurai, Sachiko Oguchi and director Takashi Miike seem to have injected levity into what should have been more stoic situations by introducing not only comedic elements but also cartoony "Minority Report" looking graphics that, while outside of canon, adds so much to the film. In fact, the overall aesthetic is one that seems to blend cartoon, futuristic sci-fi and steampunk elements and it works so well. The costumes and general appearance of the characters was a constant reminder that this is a film based on a video game.

While the look of the film is overwhelmingly cartoony, the performances in the film are slightly less so. Although Larry Butz, Yanni Yogi, Dick Gumshoe and Phoenix himself give some fantastic, light hearted performances, they are counter balanced by those given by Miles Edgeworth and the Judge who is portrayed by legendary actor and Japanese Academy Award winner, Akira Emoto. For such a sizeable cast we are treated to an equitable amount of insight into each character while giving the main focus to the main characters.

The release of Ace Attorney is a blessing. This film is one of the best executed, fun filled romps in recent memory. From start to finish, Ace Attorney proves that films based on video games CAN be worth the watch. The only downside is that it makes me wish Ninja Kids had a local release!

Ace Attorney is available from Madman now of DVD.


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