FLY WITH THE GOLD | MOVIE REVIEW

Fly with the Gold (Movie) (2012)
黄金を抱いて翔べ 

I’m no expert on crime movies, but when you have criminals as main characters, you need to spend extra effort encouraging viewers to feel a sense of interest or investment in the characters. A crime movie can have two dominant focuses – either the complexity or originality of the robbery itself or the psychology of the characters and their motivations. A good movie will have a good balance of both.

I think Fly with the Gold tried to do both but ended up with an ultimately mediocre result because there was too much disconnect between various elements of the plot.

Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS. Movie is probably rated at least 15+ and not suitable for children

The basic premise of the movie is simple enough – six unlikely men band together to rob a bank of 1.5 billion yen, which are owned by various government agents, CEOs and rich people etc.

The story, however, starts with Changmin’s character Momo, shooting his hyung from North Korea in the head on a public bridge easily accessible to passing joggers and most likely security-camera-armed ???? Then the protagonist Koda finds him working in a tofu store and they both recognise each other somehow. After Koda and Kitagawa rescue him from a series of shootings, Momo joins their team.

For a North Korean spy, he was terrible at not looking or being suspicious in front of his hyung and also everywhere else (Changmin overacted a little here I think) and a little too quick to divulge his story to Koda. His general reason for participating in a bank heist that appears to require the criminals to never return to Japan is because he...wants to be his own boss? I swear there are easier ways to accomplish that : /

The Koda/Momo bromance was the cutest, and one of the only somewhat well-developed relationships in the movie.

Okay fine, I was here for this part, clearly. Kind of a weak disguise. Needed more makeup.

The question was 'before you leave Japan for life, do you want to do anything in particular?' and the answer is just so Changmin that I had to screencap it.

The Suenaga, Yamagishi and North Korea subplot explained why people were after Momo, but didn't explain why Momo had to kill his hyung (unless...Suenaga threatened him?). It was an interesting issue, but felt very disconnected to the gold heist. More effort should have been spent on connecting the two (gold heist and North Korean agents) and showing how the effects of one impact the other (like say, Momo will buy off his pursuers with the gold?).

They spent almost 40% of the movie exploring the North Korea issue, but the ultimate product as just a lot of bad (foreign) guys chasing the characters with guns. And if they could break into Momo's apartment so easily, why didn't they kill him earlier?

I have no idea why Kitagawa (the ringleader) was involved in this or where he got the idea to steal the gold. I think it’s implied his son has some sort of OCD? He also has a weird relationship with his wife that seemed somewhat wooden : / I don’t know if the lesson was like ‘even ordinary people can be criminals’ or something, but his motive for committing the crime was the most unclear and unconvincing.

The wife and kid's murder was so gruesomely out-of-nowhere and seemed to have little effect on Kitagawa's motives for the heist, apart from his momentary anguish (how did he even know they were there???). I don't understand why Kitagawa had to go and antagonise the pimp thugs in the first place.

All I found out about the main character – Koda was that he was a former robber whose role was to pick locks in the crime plan. It’s hinted he has photographic memory (because how else do you remember some dude you bumped into twice in Tokyo?) and he's oddly intense and 'not human'?

We got a bit of backstory where he’s moving back to his old hometown and that, at the age of five, he burnt down a church after discovering his mother was having relations with the priest. We also know he wants to get away from people but those points and their connection to his involvement in the crime is subtext at best and non-existent to a casual watcher.

It was extremely hard to grasp why he was so invested or interested in committing this crime, especially since he seemed to really dislike corrupt people and murderers…

I kind of suspected the old guy was Koda’s father when he started asking about the church, but it didn’t seem like Koda was particularly invested in finding the priest or felt anything about his father, which made his emotional breakdown at the end extremely baffling.

Haruki was a completely unnecessary aspect of the plot, to be honest. There was not enough time to develop his motives (supposedly doing this crime helps him not be suicidal? That's all I got) or his place and importance in the group of six before he died. I also completely missed that he was Kitagawa's brother until a rewatch.

The six-person camaraderie developed at a brisk but also arbitrary pace. We're meant to believe there were no clashes at all between all these radically different people? That there was no conflict of objectives and methods concerning the gold heist? Not once did any character question the morality or motive of the heist.

The casually racist grandpa had all this deep backstory connection to worker's unions and North Korea, as revealed by Yamagishi, but it was not explained much at all and it seemed like he had basically no motive for participating in the actual gold heist beyond...getting money easily? The entire plot hinged on his cooperation, which is why I kept expecting a betrayal but it never came.

Noda was kind of just awkwardly…there with his Osaka accent and buggy eyes. He at least played a larger role than Haruki and was not as badly incompetent as you might have expected. But he only needed 38,000Y to pay back his ex and he’s got at least several hundred million now so...I have no idea about his motivations either.

I was not expecting them to succeed in the robbery and was especially not expecting them to proceed with the robbery because Koda was shot in the shoulder and Momo died the night before?

The heist plan was interesting but not brilliant and mainly involved a lot of explosions and some extremely efficient pre-heist recon with barely any glitches. The heist section was shot suspensefully and I did find myself feeling nervous for the characters when things started to go wrong. But they were also incredibly stupid to completely disregard forensics (not wearing masks, gloves and leaving a vodka bottle on the safe???).

So many elements relied on convenience, luck and the old guy’s loyalty (and I was expecting a betrayal that never came…darn). It felt like the amateur job it was, which is why I was expecting it to fail.

In general, it came across as incredibly dodgy that all the characters were so casual about holding and using weapons and discussing criminal plans in public places with dubiously trustworthy people, as well as not even hiding their faces or covering their forensic footprints while committing the robbery of the explosives truck and in the actual heist?

Perhaps the intention was to expose the ‘underbelly’ of society (where these things are part and parcel of daily life, supposedly), but I thought it was clear that these people were amateurs and expected the movie to pay more attention to their psychology. Not just anyone can be so confident when robbing a bank on this scale.

And the movie ends with the ringleader releasing Koda’s body in a bright yellow body bag into a large public river in broad daylight. And he just lets it float away. I was laughing so hard. Do these people even crime?

I think the movie was trying to juggle too many subplots that were clumsily pieced together so it lacked focus. I’m also not sure what it intended us to take away from it. That people who rob banks will get their comeuppance unless you’re the two luckier ones with less risky roles? It was a very depressing ending, especially since we have no idea what the ringleader and Noda intend to do with all the gold, now with only 1/3 of their team surviving.

The movie may have been fairly passable in terms of cinematography and acting, but fell flat in possessing that 'addictive' quality because I didn't find myself connecting to any characters or to the reasons behind the entire crime.