Bad Lands (2023)

Bad Lands (2023)

A subtle Japanese crime thriller that coolly pulls off its long con



Action, Crime
Junichi Okada, Katsuhisa Namase, Ken Yamamura
143 min


Joe.... You gamble too tough. Your swag too different. Your sister is too cool. They'll kill you

What it's about

Making a living as a grifter, Neri hopes to leave the business to retire in a tropical country. Along with her loose-cannon ex-con brother Joe, they manage to score hundreds of millions of yen at a job, but their recent win paints a huge target on their backs.

The take

Bad Lands isn’t exactly new. It has the romanticized con artist that manages to slip through the fingers of those more powerful than her, through quick wit and good sense. It has the successful con, and those that come out of the woodwork to take what they’ve stolen. The story isn’t even original, being based on Hiroyuki Kurokawa’s 2015 novel, Keiso. But it’s done well. It’s a well-executed character study focused on a grifter pushed into the business, and taking on a cold, ruthless mindset to survive. It juxtaposes her self-contained lifestyle with the skeevy, abusive tech billionaire ex and the police force he infiltrated. And it’s all the more powerful with Sakura Ando leading the story.

What stands out

Upon watching Bad Lands, the film can feel less action-packed and less thrilling than expected. The kills are sparse, the stealing looks mundane, and most of the time, Neri operates lowkey, evasive ways that enable her to slip through people’s fingers. But even without starting with the action, it’s not boring. Every character feels fully formed, with clear motivations, that even with the shifts in information, they’re compelling to follow. Ryosuke Yamada does a fair job in portraying the reckless Joe, but it’s Sakura Ando’s role as Neri that carries the film, as her subtle, unflashy performance makes her long con feel like it’s possible to pull off through the force of her personality.


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