K-20: Legend of the Mask (2008)
Director: Shimako Sato
Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Takako Matsu, Toru Nakamura
Synopsis: Set in a fictional Japanese city in 1949, a master criminal hones in on his latest victim.
Apparently based on a Japanese comic book character, this entry in an already impossibly overcrowded genre gets quite good after a slow couple of early reels. Takeshi Kaneshiro plays Heikichi Endo, a circus acrobat mistaken for a masked thief known as K20 because he’s a master of disguise. After escaping from prison, Heikichi vows to have his revenge on the masked villain.
The story is set in an alternate version of Japan in which WWII never took place (much in the same way that Watchmen was set in an America in which Nixon was never impeached for Watergate), which adds a unique slant to the tale. A rigid class structure divides the country into the haves and the have-nots, with no chance of upward mobility. Tesla is alive, recognised as a genius, and his device for transmitting energy without the need for cables forms the secondary focus of the plot.
There are some well-staged action set pieces, numerous twists-and-turns in the plot, mucho Scooby-Doo style removal of face masks to reveal — gasp! — secret identities. It’s all a bit silly, really, but its scale is seductive and the period detail lends it a
measure of gravitas that would otherwise be lacking. Worth a look.