Hit Me Anyone One More Time, shame on me… Hit Me Anyone One More Time, shame on you
November 12, 2019
By Dr. Craig D. Reid
Imagine for a moment…a President that is rude, doesn’t care about what he says, uses his position of power to increase his personal wealth and takes advantage of women, is arrogant, has a secret mistress, uses money for things the country doesn’t need, has the lowest approval rating ever, the media has had it up to here with him and he doesn’t buy into his poor popularity.
I am of course describing, Japan’s prime minister Keisuke Kuroda (Kiichi Nakai) in the rollicking, a-smirking-smile-a-minute, thoroughly entertaining Japanese political comedy Hit Me Anyone One More Time. With a 2.3% approval rating, the lowest in Japanese history and moments after calling a large open-air crowd a group of “assholes” high up on a veranda, where a Pope could speak to a crowd and accept donations over the internet using Papal, a disgruntled construction worker throws a rock at Keisuke that hits him on the noggin.
Waking up in the hospital with amnesia, Keisuke is transformed into an ordinary do-gooder elder with no interest in money or power. Yet instead of resigning, perhaps he can change and do things that benefit Japan and not himself? So his three trusted secretaries agree that they will be his eyes, ears and memories: the two politically-minded idealists, adviser Isaka (Dean Fujoka) and press secretary Banba (Eiko Koike); and the diddle around-ish Nonomiya (Takaya Sakoda).
In regard to the memory loss, the three decide that no one else, including all cabinet ministers, his mistress, son and even his wife, will be kept in the dark. However, a state meeting with the President of the United States is rapidly approaching, something they are unable to cancel. It’s a comic race for time for Keisuke to learn golf, to remember his English (he does after all speak four languages), convince Japan that he has changed and somehow win over his family, and do it all at the same time of not remembering anyone and winging it like a clipped-wing chicken…in other words…good c-luck. It’s Dante’s A Comedy of Errors meets a Shakespearean tragic comedy wrapped in Japanese humor…if you Noh what I mean.
Named after the youngest sumo wrestler Taiho Koki to become a yokozuna (the highest rank in sumo), director/screenwriter Koki Mitani is known for wrestling with the comedy marketplace and pushing them out of the ring, Mitani discusses how the 13-years-in-the-making film evolved, “Many years ago I thought, ‘What if I become a prime minister, what should I do?’ Every child has had such delusions. I don’t have much self-interest, power or money, so if I became the prime minister, I thought that I’d do good politics. So the story I came up with was what would happen if a very ordinary person suddenly became a prime minister. In reality that could never happen in Japan unless if was fantasy.”
For Mitani, who’s also known as Japan’s Mr. Comedy and knows that front man Kiichi’s favorite comedienne is the illustrious American-born Danny Kaye, where one of his most famous films The Court Jester (1956) also dealt with dual identities and memory loss patterns, thus Kiichi’s interest in the role, the final impetus for Hit Me Anyone arose from a Kevin Kline film.
Mitani tells, “After thinking more about the fantasy angle I watched the American comedy Dave (1993), where one day, the president’s look-alike replaces the real president. I thought that to do something like that genre would be impossible, yet at the time [of finalizing the idea], there were no other known similarly made [copycat] films.”
At the end of the day, it’s a comforting funny film to watch because it’s completely predictable and thus when it works out to the final solution that heart tugging viewers like to see, it becomes a very satisfying journey.
Of course along the way, Mitani is pulling more rabbits out of the hole than Thor could use his hammer to play whack-a-mole. His style of directing focuses on inserting his personality into his films and because he typically uses a one-scene equals a one-shot system and moving the camera around as compared to doing lots of cuts, it adds to the centralization of the characters and the prime minister’s daze of mind games with fast-paced edginess that keeps the stately PM’s house landlocked and neatly tucked within the drama. Having the U.S. President being a Japanese American female is pure genius.