Za majikku awâ (The Magic Hour) Reviews
Surely one of the first things you have to do to enjoy a movie like this is to toss any expectations of realism out the window. The best scene in "The Magic Hour" involves an elaborate showdown with a Thai street gang featuring an arms sale, a hidden assassin, and a suitcase full of fake money. It all goes wrong in a way that would surely lead to the characters figuring out that nothing is what they think it is, but of course we cut to the next scene without anyone having faced the seemingly inevitable moment of realization. That's fine, the rules are different in a comedy like this.
That's why it's a bit of a problem that "The Magic Hour" seems to compulsively poke at its own plot holes. When the movie starts, it initially appears to be set during the 1920s, to judge from the cars, clothes, hairstyles, buildings, and general atmosphere. But this is misdirection, and within minutes the movie seems to have decided that is set more or less in the present. The town just so happens to look like an old movie set, and its residents just happen to dress the part-an odd quirk, but it helps set a certain tone. The problem is, the movie doesn't leave it at that. Chronology keeps playing a niggling role. The movie borrows the styles and tropes of noir to characterize its heavy and its femme fatale, but it repeatedly steps back to examine that era of entertainment as a thing of the past. One of the characters is obsessed with a "Casablanca"-like film whose Bogart figure is seen years later as a very old man. At the same time, a struggling actor seems to act in nothing but black and white gangster movies. It's not confusing, but it's hard not to be distracted by the fact that half of the characters seem to be living in a different time period than the other half.
There are some additional logical inconsistencies, most of which revolve around the out-of-time, out-of-place femme fatale (Eri Fukatsu), that I felt I was expected to ignore and was happily doing so until the movie itself to bring them up without providing any real explanations. Why doesn't she just skip town? I wondered at the beginning. Why don't we just skip town? she asks much, much later. The run-time is so long that I'd forgotten my quibble until it was brought to the fore in a late attempt to manufacture an arc for the underdeveloped female lead.
The actors, especially Toshiyuki Nishida as a mob boss and Koichi Sato as the struggling actor, manage to pull off the film's various conceits better than the script does, and are often hilarious in their exaggerated roles. The object of a comedy of misunderstandings, after all, is to enjoy a series of funny misunderstandings, and "The Magic Hour" provides plenty of them.
Though about three quarters of the way through the knockabout comedy subtly shifts into a sweeter story with dreams and character arcs leading to a surprisingly satisfying ending.