Synapse // 2005 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 6th, 2008
"Attack the koala and he'll get you back ten-fold."
"Wherever the koala goes, there flows a river of tears."
It's about a giant koala bear. Who's an executive. The term "WTF" was made precisely for this movie.
The aforementioned Executive Koala is one Mr. Tamura, an up-and-coming sales superstar in a pickle distribution company. He is well on his way to climbing to the top rung of the corporate ladder, and all the ladies in the office adore him, but there's something amiss in his life. For one, he doesn't know what happened to his beloved wife, who may or not have been murdered. Plus there's a detective after him, thinking he's the murderer.
Can that be possible? Does a dark, murderous heart beat beneath that cuddly, furry exterior?
Not really sure where to begin here. Seriously, if anyone has any ideas for an opening paragraph in a review about a Japanese movie about 6-foot-tall koala bear that sells pickles for a living, please e-mail it to me. I'll go into the database and fix the review.
This movie is as surreal and ridiculous as you would think -- and great. So great. It's structured in an incredibly bizarre way, and just when you think you sort of have it figured out, director Minoru Kawasaki tweaks the story and makes it even weirder. By the time this thing ends in a giant two-on-one Korean kung fu match in an amusement park, there's an excellent chance you'll either be a) checking to see if your Pringles were laced with PCP, or b) sending out a mass e-mail to all your friends and loved ones telling them about the mind-obliterating awesomeness that you had just watched.
Let's break this thing down in its separate, wildly different parts so you know what to expect:
* Part 1: A Giant Koala Bear is an Executive
That's the main source of the humor, the juxtaposition of a straightforward story about a businessman who is wrapped up in some legal trouble with the presence of a koala bear, a rabbit and a frog. There aren't really any gags in this section, just the fact that everyone seems to accept the presence of a walking and talking bear pickle salesmen as normal. To be honest, as the gag wore off, I was getting antsy, until...
* Part 2: Killer Koala!
...the film turns into a quasi-slasher movie. Tamura suddenly develops a lethal psychosis (shown by his flashing red eyes) and he acts upon his impulses with great violence -- or does he?
Like in The Rug Cop, another Kawasaki film, the break in the middle brings a sprawling musical selection. This time, a short musical number lays out Tamura's youth in a small village and his violent tendencies. Basically it's awesome and represents the biggest laughs in the film. From that point on, Executive Koala works the funny a lot more effectively.
* Part 3: Koala in Prison
Quite suddenly, the action shifts to Alcatraz prison (?!?), where Tamura is incarcerated. He's forced to call upon his koala instincts to survive the brutal beatings administered by the other convicts. This is the first time we see the use of dummies for Tamura to body slam.
* Part 4: The Showdown
And the film ends on the absolute highest of high notes, with a trippy martial arts sequences, the revelation of the fate of Tamura's ancestors, more dummies being body-slammed and quite possibly the greatest final shot of a movie ever produced.
That synopsis doesn't really do justice to the wondrous weirdness that awaits you with this film but, if you're even slightly intrigued, go find this movie. I can't even begin to imagine the experience this would be with alcohol tossed into the mix.
Synapse coughs up yet another good DVD, with the film transferred nicely in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer and pushed by a 2.0 stereo track (Japanese with English subtitles). Extras: a making-of featurette and a couple of trailers.
Just a mind-blowing movie; Executive Koala escapes simple genre classification. All I know is, you really need to see this @#$%.
Not guilty. My brain is empty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated