Gold Boy

European Premiere | In Competition

 

Stories about fictional teenagers solving crimes go back to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries of the prewar era and beyond. Based on a hit series that streamed on the Chinese iQiyi platform, Kaneko Shusuke’s Gold Boy flips this script: The film’s teenage trio seeks to profit off a double murder one of them accidently recorded.

Scripted by Minato Takehiko, Gold Boy compresses its 12-episode model into a twistfilled entertainment that may strain credulity with its depictions of underage criminal cleverness and ruthlessness, but thrills and chills in equal measure as it approaches its surprise climax.

Kaneko is also the director of the acclaimed 1988 supernatural fantasy Summer Vacation 1999, which cast girls in the roles of three teenaged boys who spend the summer alone at their boarding school – and encounter the doppelganger of a suicided classmate. Praised for his handling of his young cast then, Kaneko also draws strong performances from his three leads in Gold Boy, especially Hamura Jinsei as the psychopathic ringleader Amuro Asahi. But the dreamy androgyny of the earlier film has given way a grittier view of kids living at the social margins in Japan’s poorest prefecture, semi-tropical Okinawa.

The story’s initial focus, however, is Azuma Noboru (Okada Masaki), unhappily married to Shizuka (Matsui Rena), a rich man’s daughter who is cheating on him with a hunky tattoo artist. Noburu’s method of payback is both drastic and devious: Luring his elderly in-laws to the cliff where they long ago pledged their love, he pushes them off and later, teary-eyed, tells the cops it was all a horrible accident.

Earlier, when his doting divorced mother (Kuroki Haru) is away at work, thirteen-yearold Asahi (Hamura) is visited by delinquent pal Hiroshi (Maede Yoji) and his half-sister Natsuki (Hoshino Anna), both now on the run after Natsuki knifed her abusive step-father.

Asahi blandly assures her that, even if she killed him, the cops can’t arrest her since she’s underage.

Asahi knows whereof he speaks, since the second wife of his father (Kitamura Kazuki) bitterly accuses him of killing her daughter, Asahi’s classmate. The girl apparently committed suicide after losing out to Asahi in an academic rivalry, but the mother blames him nonetheless. What is the truth? After a meal paid for with money Hiroshi ripped off at knifepoint from a passing group of boys, Asahi is testing Natsuki’s new camera at the beach when he sees he has captured something strange on video – two figures falling off a cliff. Realizing he has evidence of a crime, he persuades Hiroshi and Natsuki to join him in extorting cash from the perpetrator rather than go to the police. “Money will solve our problems,” Asahi cooly tells them.

Scoring it isn’t easy, though. Noboru turns out to be a hard target, while a dogged detective (Eguchi Yosuke) who is Shizuka’s uncle proves tough to shake. Meanwhile, Natsuki is falling in love with Asahi – and becoming his willing tool for further crimes.

In a kids-versus-adult-criminal story, the natural inclination is to root for the kids, but the wily, amoral Asahi is hardly the cleanest of heroes. Love him or hate him, he helps makes Gold Boy less a wish-fulfillment for teens (though they can certainly enjoy it) than a gripping study of evil, from its early youth to its full deadly maturity.

Mark Schilling
Film director: KANEKO Shusuke
Year: 2023
Running time: 128'
Country: Japan
01/05 - 10:25 AM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
01-05-2024 10:25 01-05-2024 12:33Europe/Rome Gold Boy Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

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