The Apology King (Shazai no Ousama)
Review by David Cirone
For the first hour of Shazai no Ousama (The Apology King), Sadao Abe’s tour-de-force comedic performance is so detailed, surprising, and funny that it distracted me from the larger, heartfelt film that forms in the background. The film delivers many well-earned laughs as openly skewers Japanese tabloids, media figures, and the country’s gossip culture, and its episodic structure slowly starts to link together the various characters that dogeza (“apology”) expert Ryoro Kurojima (Abe) encounters in his mission to profit from the perfect apology.
Spoiled Tokyo girl Noriko Kuramochi (Mao Inoue) learned about apologies and lawsuits from her time in America, and she’s not about to admit guilt even when her reckless driving causes her problems with the yakuza. Kurojima’s TV commercials (over-the-top, but yes they sorta could be real one day) bring her to his coffee-shop office for guidance, and she signs on as his assistant after his super-apology saves her from massive debt and indentured servitude. Abe’s antics as he “renegotiates” her apology with the criminal boss is straight out of Jim Carrey’s better bag of tricks.
Kurojima’s clients range from a chauvinist garment executive (Takuya Numata), an estranged showbiz couple (Yasuko Matsuyuki and Katsumi Takahashi, who comes close to stealing the movie for himself), a regretful attorney (Yutaka Takenouchi), and an oddly-assembled collective of film producers and politicians (led by YosiYosi Arakawa), all of who have committed offenses on the personal to national levels. Directed by Nobuo Mizuta (Woman, Gooko’s Life, Mother), each “case” finds its own rhythm and smartly allows us time to attach to the characters. The 2-hour-plus running time is just a little too long for this comedy, and there’a slump in the long third act that makes the film feel a little stretched.
Shazai no Ousama is smart and well-acted, filled with great performances from start to finish. Stick around for the credits to catch a fun music video featuring m-flo’s verbal, E-girls, and EXILE’s Matsu (who has a short but important role in Kurojima’s transformation into The Apology King).