New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Ace Attorney

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Ace Attorney
Gyakuten saiban | Takashi Miike, 2012
Japan | Format: 35mm | 135 minutes

In 2001, an unlikely hero emerged on an unlikely platform. He fought for the innocent and the unjustly accused. He hunted the guilty lurking in the corridors of power. He had fantastic hair and was never too proud to ask for help. His name is gamer legend, and his battle cry echoes in eternity: “OBJECTION!” It’s Phoenix Wright, Ace Attorney, the blockbuster video game character, and this is what you’ve been waiting for: his big-budget, live-action movie, directed by the legendary Takashi Miike.

Based on the uber-popular problem-solving video game series that began on the Nintendo DS, Ace Attorney follows intrepid young defense lawyer Phoenix Wright as he fights to solve crimes and win cases in a wacky alternative universe (we call it “Japan”) in which every trial is a three-day deathmatch, and the rival fighters—we mean lawyers—interrogate witnesses, scream evidence at each other, hurl giant holograms, and occasionally fistfight. When it’s all over, a judge rules from the bench, confetti falls from the ceiling, the gallery cheers, and it’s onto the next case. Basically, it’s just like Nancy Grace.

Ace Attorney—the movie—is a letter-perfect adaptation of the first game in the Nintendo series, following Phoenix Wright’s rise from novice counselor to law god supreme. When his mentor, Mia Fey, is murdered while investigating a long-buried cold case, Wright winds up defending the prime suspect: her sister, Maya. The pandemonium that follows includes a giant samurai, a talking parrot, sea monsters, a heaping helping of cartoon logic, and a mystery so utterly ludicrous Jessica Fletcher would need to be taking shrooms to work it out. Who is Redd White? What is the secret of DL-6 that could change the face of video game law? And what the hell is up with the Blue Badger, anyway?

Miike has done video game adaptations before (Like a Dragon), but this time he’s operating on a higher level. Locations and characters are recreated right down to their outrageous hairstyles, holograms flicker, whizz, and fly through the courtroom like you’re inside a Nintendo DS, and even if you’ve played through the series before, you’ll still find yourself trying to work out the cases along with Phoenix, clue by clue, lie by lie. Take it from us: you’ve never seen anything like Takashi Miike’s vision of gamer cinema. Case closed.

Series: New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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