Key of Life

3 stars (out of 4)

Released 2012

Sakurai’s got it rough: friendless, hopeless, unemployed… even his suicide is a failure. While visiting a public bathhouse, he witnesses an accident in which a fellow bather is knocked unconscious. Having nothing to lose, he impulsively switches locker keys with the man and steals his belongings as well as his identity.

Sakurai soon discovers that he is impersonating an underworld assassin, while the victim, Kondo, suffers amnesia from his fall and has no choice but to believe he is a failed actor with no family and no money.

This is another one of those films that I missed out on when I had to skip TIFF last year. Key of Life is both funny and smart and I’m really glad I got another chance to catch it on the big screen.

In addition to Sakurai’s story and Kondo’s story, there is also a sub-plot involving a business woman named Kanae who is looking for a man to marry, preferably in time for her wedding.  The various plot threads get a little complicated, but they come together satisfyingly by the end.

I have seen Kagawa Teruyuki, who plays the part of Kondo, in many other movies in the past (including RUROUNI KENSHIN most recently). From what I’ve experienced, he tends to often play one-note characters. This is the first time I’ve seen him in such a varied and sympathetic role. Kondo seemed to be the true lead in this production, so I was actually a little surprised that Kagawa did not get top billing. Well, maybe they didn’t think his “thug face” would sell the film…