Funimation // 2009 // 120 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // October 21st, 2011
How much could you forgive?
West meets East in this Danny Glover-produced examination of prejudice and forgiveness.
Daniel Holder (Ben Guillory, The Color Purple) is grief-stricken. His estranged son, who had moved to Japan to teach English, was killed in a car accident. In a desperate bid to preserve his memory, Daniel heads over to the Land of the Rising Sun to track down and collect his son's paintings. With him, he brings a burning resentment towards the entire Japanese people because of what happened to his father in World War II. His bias takes a back seat when a shocking revelation reveals itself and Daniel will be forced to reconcile a bevy of complex emotions and maybe even come to the realization that a modern culture shouldn't be blamed wholesale for the sins of its forebears, especially since said modern culture is like totally our BFF.
Here's the capsule review: The Harimaya Bridge is an earnest effort with a good heart that is ultimately hamstrung by some shaky writing and acting. What at first holds the promise of a quiet, emotional endeavor just can't quite overcome an amateurish feel.
I can't dispute Guillory's pedigree, but the truth is I had trouble connecting with him here. He's tasked with heavy-lifting in the emoting department and shifts dramatically between "so-pissed-he-looks-like-he's-chewing-on-deck-screws" and "near-tears-distressed" with not a whole lot of nuance in between.
Then again, he's probably just doing what is asked of him. Writer/director Aaron Woolfolk obviously has a strong connection to the material, but it gets away from him. Instead of offering a streamlined little tale of redemption and the human experience, his film clocks in at a too-long 120 minutes, with much of the runtime saddled with saccharine dialogue strained line-readings. This is exemplified by an excruciating scene in a Japanese cemetery, where Daniel is shown the gravestones of soldiers from World War II by his Japanese guide and he is gob-smacked by the notion that the Japanese would bury their dead. See, because, and this is a direct quote, "They're the bad guys!" His guide immediately counters with some stuff about how American soldiers are psychotics and rapists too and that shows Daniel! What a terrible scene.
And I'm having a hard time believing that Daniel has held onto his blood grudge against the Japanese people for so long. His father perishing in a POW camp is awful, I understand, but it's not like Tokyo is currently overrun with Hirohito propaganda these days. Daniel just comes across as petty and detached with his prejudice.
But without it you don't have a movie, so we'll just roll right to the ending, which, I will confess, packs a satisfyingly dramatic wallop. Again, it's easy to see coming and not very subtle, though I won't deny its effectiveness. If only Woolfolk had pruned his creation a bit more...
A decent Blu-ray awaits: a crystal-clear, 1.78:1 1080p transfer brings Japan to life and is supported by a quiet but effected Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track. Extras: director's commentary, a robust making-of documentary and cast and crew interviews.
A noble intent just isn't enough. Skip it.
This Bridge needs some infrastructure repair.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English, Japanese)
Running Time: 120 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Copy