Shenmue: The Movie (Japan 2001)

Rating: **
Review Date: 12/30/02
Director: Yu Suzuki
Cast: Corey Marshall

How odd. After finishing the overly ambitious and technologically groundbreaking video game "Shenmue" (1999) (which also turned out to be a commercial flop), game designer Yu Suzuki decided to release a condensed version of the story on video, comprised solely of cut scenes from the game. Only in Japan... And then to make it even more bizarre, Mr. Suzuki was apparently so enamored with the bad dubbing of the English version of the game that he decided to ditch the original Japanese soundtrack and replace it with the inappropriate English dialog, and give it Japanese subtitles. That's just not right. But maybe that was a clever marketing decision to hook Japanese fans into buying it (not that I can understand why anyone would want to hear Japanese translated into English and subtitled back into Japanese...). But anyway...

It's 1986 in rural Japan, and a teenage boy named Ryo Hazuki (Corey Marshall) has just witnessed his father being murdered by a mysterious Chinese villain named Lan Di. Being a pretty decent martial artist, he swears vengeance and sets off to deliver justice. The game is essentially one giant goose chase as Ryo follows a string of clues that lead him to his ultimate showdown, and the video is pretty much the same. Basically an hour of Ryo asking people questions and beating up thugs. As a result, the narrative is clunky and disjointed, the plot and continuity are essentially non-existent, the pacing is sluggish, and the action scenes are devoid of any feeling. In fact, it's just like watching someone play a video game. Hmmm... Apart from die-hard "Shenmue" fans, I can't see anyone really enjoying or getting anything out of this video. Fans of the game might get a wave of nostalgia seeing their 40+ hours of gameplay compressed into a collection of a few choice cuts, but it ultimately feels rather empty.