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Limit of Love: Umizaru

Hideaki Ito and Ai Kato reach the Limit of Love.
AKA: Umizaru 2: Test of Trust  
Year: 2006  
Director: Eiichiro Hasumi  
Producer: Chikahiro Ando, Hirotsugi Usui  
  Cast: Hideaki Ito, Ai Kato, Ryuta Sato, Nene Otsuka, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Reina Asami, Ryosuke Miki, Ken Ishiguro, Saburo Tokito, Toru Nakamura
  The Skinny: This hit sequel to 2004's Umizaru may not measure up to its predecessor in terms of feel-good action movie thrills, but the end product makes for an entertaining, if occasionally underwhelming diversion for fans of the series.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      Directed by Eiichiro Hasumi, Limit of Love: Umizaru is the third and presumably final chapter of the live-action franchise that began with the 2004 feature film Umizaru and continued with the 2005 television series Umizaru Evolution. Known internationally by the alternative title Umizaru 2: Test of Trust, the film once again revolves around Daisuke Senzaki (Ito Hideaki), a young diver for the Japanese Coast Guard, and his faithful girlfriend, Kanna (Ai Kato). Although deeply in love, Senzaki has reservations about marrying Kanna, and a confrontation between the two puts a serious strain on the relationship.
     Unfortunately for Kanna, Senzaki has to put his personal issues aside the next day when he learns that a gigantic ferry carrying some 620 passengers and nearly two-hundred vehicles needs to be evacuated before it sinks. But who should Senzaki see on the ship, but his would-be fiancée, Kanna? Although there's a fairly large window of time in which everyone can be evacuated, things immediately go from bad to worse, as Senzaki, his colleague Yoshioka (Ryuta Sato), a pregnant woman (Nene Otsuka), and a man with a troubled past all find themselves trapped on the ship in a room slowly filling with water. All Senzaki can rely on are his wits and the help of an old mentor, Shimokawa (Saburo Tokito), who's calling the shots on dry land. Will Senzaki and company escape their doom or go down with the ship? And more importantly, will he ever tell Kanna how he really feels? Well, this is a commercial action flick, so it's not too hard to guess.
     Whereas the first Umizaru was a highly entertaining riff on Top Gun featuring the Japanese coast guard, Limit of Love: Umizaru more closely resembles Die Hard crossed with Apollo 13 in terms of plot and character. The problem, however, is that it isn't even half as tense or as involving as those two Hollywood pictures. And while it's certainly nice to see Ito and Kato reprise their roles, one wishes that the film had given the two more screen time together. Part of the appeal of Umizaru was getting to know the characters, but in the sequel, there's little time for real character development, as they are quickly separated. Although Kanna's appearance on the ship might lead one to believe she is going to be trapped with Senzaki as well, the truth of the matter is that she is pretty much confined to the sidelines as a character, leaving Ai Kato very little to do but look worried and upset as her boyfriend's life hangs in the balance.
     Action-wise, the film doesn't quite deliver the goods. Although an initial sequence involving a cargo hold full of cars, a gas leak, and a cigarette lighter makes for a suitably explosive start to the proceedings, subsequent action set-pieces are surprisingly bland and unimaginative. Despite the sometimes epic sweep of the scenes involving the coast guard, the whole crisis looks like it was filmed for television rather than a blockbuster action movie. Pacing is another problem as well. The lack of intensity is largely to blame for this, as individual scenes don't carry the degree of jeopardy one would hope. Curiously, Limit of Love: Umizaru lumbers toward a climax, only to pull the rug out from under the viewer as a way to necessitate a second, much bigger climax.
     As initially off-putting as that move is, it should be noted that it's actually that second climax that makes Limit of Love: Umizaru a fairly worthwhile viewing experience. Probably the most appealing aspect of this film is its emphasis on teamwork. In this respect, Limit of Love: Umizaru is reminiscent of the Bayside Shakedown series (no surprise, Hasumi was second unit director for at least two films), except it totally jettisons that series' emphasis on cutting through bureaucratic rules and regulations. This is a film where red tape just doesn't exist.
     This emphasis on "working together for a common goal" is extremely evident in the command center scenes. In most Hollywood movies post-Rambo, the lone hero usually finds himself abandoned by authority figures and left to fend for himself. If said hero has any buddies at all, they usually have to disobey direct orders to get the job done right. That's not quite the case here. In Limit of Love: Umizaru, even the one high-ranking official who gives the order to "stand down" at a crucial point is depicted as a sympathetic character. Simply put, he makes the right call. And as the characters in the command center and on the ground slip into "rescue mode," one can't help but be entertained by a group of people who not only have resolute faith in each other, but do their jobs and do them well. Strange as it may sound, loyalty, bravery, and a hard-working attitude just never go out of style. Sure, we all want to see the resolution of the Senzaki/Kanna romance, but it's the rousing depiction of the Japanese Coast Guard's "can do" spirit that elevates the picture from mere lackluster sequel to a genuinely entertaining diversion. (Calvin McMillin, 2007)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video Limited
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Lnaguage Track
Dolby Digital EX 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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