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The Suspect: Muroi Shinji
|     Review #1    |     Review #2    |     availability     |     also see      |

Toshiro Yanagiba and Rena Tanaka face the music in The Suspect: Muroi Shinji.
Japanese: 容疑者 室井慎次  
Year: 2005  
Director: Ryoichi Kimizuka  
  Cast: Toshiro Yanagiba, Rena Tanaka, Sho Aikawa, Akira Emoto, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Toshio Kakei, Soichiro Kitamura, Takeshi Masu, Miki Maya, Takehiko Ono, Satoru Saito, Shiro Sano, Norito Yashima
  The Skinny: The latest spin-off in the Bayside Shakedown film series is entertaining, but also the worst of the bunch. Probably better for fans than uninitiated newbies.
by Kozo:

If you're like me, you love the Bayside Shakedown films. The two movies and their spin-off Negotiator: Mashita Masayoshi entertained thanks to likable good guy values and a knack for mixing humanity into standard big screen action thriller formula. Important stuff gets mixed with the everyday, and the characters endear because dammit, they work hard! Considering the usual cinema maverick cops, it's great to see the blue collar worker take center stage once in a while

Bayside Shakedown returns with The Suspect: Muroi Shinji, starring Toshiro Yanagiba as Federal Officer Shinji Muroi. As the title suggests, the taciturn Muroi comes under criminal fire - but not necessarily innocently. In a move fitting for the Bayside Shakedown franchise, Muroi is busted for something he may actually have done. While investigating a murder, the trail leads to a young cop suspected of the crime. But the cop is killed in what could be classified as police brutality - and if it's not that, it's at least incessant badgering with a fatal outcome. Is Muroi guilty of pursuing justice so zealously that he badgered someone into throwing themselves in harm's way? And is that something he should be busted for?

Who knows? The inherent moral murkiness of Muroi's "crime" is intriguing, but the film spends more time on more obvious things, like the borderline evil Hanajima Law Firm. They're apparently out to get Muroi, and they're not alone. The feds and the local police bureaucracy are playing the blame game, and both identify Muroi as a good scapegoat. Amidst this wave of misfortune, Muroi is reluctantly aided by a young lawyer named Obara (Rena Tanaka), who has a reason to hate cops but will fight for Muroi anyway because it's her job. She also runs all over the place in an endearing manner, which references her previous hobby of running track and her obvious desire to work hard at what she does. It's kind of like...hey, the usual blue collar values of the Bayside Shakedown crew!

The theme of the suits vs. the streets has long been a Bayside Shakedown staple, and Suspect follows suit in an interesting, though less charming way than the films that spawned it. Director Ryoichi Kimizuka adroitly sets up each player during the film's involving first half, creating both characters and caricatures that fit right into the Bayside Shakedown world. The filmmakers pay as much attention to the system as they do to the concept of right versus wrong; the film takes pains to show us what's actually possible in Japan's bureaucratic justice system as opposed to the black-and-white judgement that audiences usually prefer. Basically, justice is preferable and possible, but compromise is a must. In pushing the idea of responsibility over absolute right, Suspect manages to feel complex and sometimes even real.

Too bad that complexity is not enough to give the film an absolute thumbs up. The first half of the film may involve, but the second half gets bogged down in slow revelations and a numbing inactivity - and much of it is perpetrated by Muroi himself. The character is a street-sympathetic suit who understands the plight of the guys in the trenches, but he's still a by-the-book square. With the pressure mounting, Muroi seeks to do only what he can - which given his character, isn't a whole lot. Ultimately, it takes action from other people to get the job done, the idea being that it's Muroi's exemplary character that inspires them to act thusly. Muroi's righteousness and respect for the system make him an admirable guy, in a "he tries to do the right thing" sort of way. But it's not that exciting watching others bail out Muroi. At some point, it would be great to see him actually spring into action.

But hey, that's usually a job for Bayside Shakedown characters who don't actually appear in this film. In Bayside Shakedown and its sequel, it was Muroi's job to exert steady calm over potentially explosive situations, while local cops like Aoshima (Yuji Oda) and Sumire (Eri Fukatsu) did the hot-blooded thing. Yanagiba's taciturn cool can sometimes border on morose, but the character's righteous resolve makes him likable, if not overly compelling.

Whether or not he's strong enough to carry an entire film is a tougher question. In my estimation, the answer would be "no". We need more than a righteous witness to really make this film a winner, and Muroi never actually becomes more than that. As it is, Suspect has plenty for the fans, and is interesting enough in its own right for some of the uninitiated. But the film will likely not recruit anyone new to the Bayside cause. Suspect lacks the necessary punch to truly entertain, and seems content to use exposition as a means of solving everything.

Still, as a part of the Bayside Shakedown series, Suspect does carve out its own appropriate and largely intelligent niche. Is it a good film? The answer to that question may ultimately depend on who you are. I liked it, but again, I love Bayside Shakedown movies. And even though Suspect is more plodding than powerful, I still want them to make more. (Kozo 2006)

Alternate Review
Review by Calvin McMillin:

When it comes to blockbuster movie franchises, there's nothing quite like the Bayside Shakedown phenomenon. Let's recap: to date, there has been a television series, three TV specials, two feature length films, and a spin-off flick, Negotiator: Mashita Masayoshi. Now comes The Suspect: Muroi Shinji, and while that plucky, hard-workin' spirit the Bayside Shakedown series is known for is still alive and well, the franchise is starting to show signs of slipping, if this particular installment is any indication.

Toshiro Yanagiba stars as Shinji Muroi, a stoic Chief Inspector who finds himself caught in between a rock and a hard place. During a murder investigation, all signs point to a young beat cop as the culprit. When the policeman flees questioning by Muroi's men, he is killed in an unfortunate traffic accident. The man's death effectively wraps up the case in the minds of Muroi's superiors, but the tough-as-nails inspector smells a rat and reopens the investigation. That move, of course, wins him no friends with high-ranking officials at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the National Police Agency, since the Chief of the TMPD and the Deputy Commissioner of the NPA are each vying for a shot at Japan's number one job in law enforcement.

To effectively muzzle Muroi, the Powers-That-Be arrest Muroi on more or less bogus charges related to police brutality. As such, he not only finds himself negotiating the troubled waters of the police bureaucracy, but also butting heads with the Hajima Law Office, a soulless law firm whose main lawyer is a nerdy, Gameboy-playing Johnnie Cochran-wannabe with his own ruthless agenda. On Muroi's side, there are his various, ever-faithful officers and his lawyer, a young woman named Obara (Rena Tanaka), a novice lawyer with a personal vendetta against cops, who ends up defending Muroi out of sense of duty. As the film wears on, audiences will begin to wonder whether the hard-fought efforts of Obara and the detectives will be enough to bail Muroi out, especially in light of the giant political machinery that stands in their way

Series director Katsuyuki Motohiro steps aside for this installment, as Kimizuka Ryoichi takes on the directorial reins. It's a smooth transition, at least visually and thematically. The hard-working, duty-bound spirit of the franchise lives on here, but ultimately, the film's title protagonist leaves something to be desired in the character department. Simply put, Shinji Muroi lacks the charisma to carry an entire film. While there's some visual flourishes to make Muroi seem "cool" (his John Woo-esque swirling, slo-mo overcoats for one), his moroseness isn't quite as endearing as it should be. In terms of acting performance, Yanagiba is able to give his character some sense of an inner life - his take on a saccharine sweet cliché about true love (think Korean drama here) late in the film proves to be both believable and surprisingly moving. But at the end of the day, his character doesn't make for a very compelling lead.

Consider the previous film, Negotiator: Mashita Masayoshi. There, the hero was a complete dork, but he was also damn good at his job - and that contrast was both a joy to behold and an interesting change of pace, especially since Hollywood heroes are either supremely competent James Bond types in action films or endearing bumblers in comedies, but are rarely ever both. Here, there's just the sense that Muroi should somehow be kicking ass, if not literally, then at least in terms of cutting through the bureaucracy. Instead, he pretty much sits around, looks stoic, and waits for others to help him.

The big finale in an abandoned church seems as if it's going to remedy the problem, but it doesn't. Just when you think Muroi is going to take the bull by the horns, he falters - only to be bailed out by others. Even worse, once the main players in the mystery are revealed, one wishes that both the investigation itself and the characters involved could have been the main thrust of the plot, not the quagmire of Japan's criminal justice system. Granted, the police bureaucracy aspect of the film is a staple of the series, but at least in The Suspect, it's not quite as riveting as one might hope.

Still, The Suspect: Muroi Shinji is a likeable diversion, and will certainly appeal to fans of the series. However, newbies would do well to pick a different point of entry into the Bayside Shakedown franchise. Although the series has never been about larger than life Hollywood-style heroes, this film's lack of a more substantive, dynamic protagonist is so glaring that I can only give the film a half-hearted recommendation. This one's more for the fans. (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
Pony Canyon
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Japanese Subtitles
Various Featurettes and Extras
Also see: Bayside Shakedown (1998)
Bayside Shakedown 2 (2003)
Bayside Shakedown 3: Set the Guys Loose! (2010)
Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final (2012)
Negotiator: Masayoshi Mashita (2005)

images courtesy of Pony Canyon Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen