- Koki Mitani's latest big-screen farce stars Kiichi Nakai as a despicable premier who unwittingly turns over a new leaf after losing his memory
- Nakai's self-deprecating performance provides endless fun, while Mitani's script maintains a relentless barrage of farcical scenarios for him to navigate
What if Japan's worst ever prime minister lost his memory and became a better person? That's the simple premise behind writer-director Koki Mitani's latest big-screen farce, which stars regular collaborator Kiichi Nakai as the despicable premier, who unwittingly turns over a new leaf.
It's a well-worn comedic concept, but in the hands of Mitani's adept ensemble, Hit Me Anyone One More Time sustains the high energy and humour throughout.
Corrupt, belligerent and misogynistic, Prime Minister Keisuke Kuroda was polling at just 2.3 per cent with his electorate, whom he openly despises and ridicules. When a disgruntled voter hits Kuroda with a rock, the PM awakes in hospital with no memory of who he is, or anything from his 30-plus years in politics.
His personal secretaries, Isaka (Dean Fujioka) and Ms. Banba (Eiko Koike), hustle to keep his amnesia secret from everyone including his wife, Satoko (Yuriko Ishida), and his duplicitous cabinet secretary (Masao Kusakari).
The Japanese title translates as "I am unable to recall", a phrase Kuroda frequently used to dismiss accusations of wrongdoing, of which there were many. Following his accident, the new Kuroda is timid, indecisive and unashamedly affable.
He has no interest in underhand political dealings, or continuing his affair with Yo Yoshida's opposition leader. His home life gets equally complicated, as he is unaware that his disgraceful behaviour alienated his son (Tatsuomi Hamada), or that he hasn't touched his wife in years. He has also forgotten about the ongoing affair between Satoko and Isaka.
With an official visit from the US president looming, Kuroda's team must rally to get him ready. This prompts a string of frenetic, frequently hilarious sequences as he stumbles his way through one official engagement after another.
Mitani's signature style of long single takes, harking back to his origins in theatre, service the material beautifully, enhancing the uneasy humour and escalating the endless sense of panic surrounding the entire deception.
Admittedly, Hit Me Anyone One More Time is a one-joke movie stretched to two hours, and has little interest in examining political accountability in any serious way.
Fortunately, Nakai's self-deprecating performance as the PM provides endless entertainment, while Mitani's script maintains a relentless barrage of farcical scenarios for him to navigate, giving the audience little opportunity to notice the insubstantial plot.
The film also makes space for a number of hilarious cameos, not least from a breathless Kei Tanaka (Ossan's Love) as a lowly traffic cop gifted a shot at the big time in the secret service.
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