Seen in Jeonju

Jesus Is My Boss (2001)

26th April 2011

lposter016456Back in June 2002, the Japanese-Korean co-production, Jesus Is My Boss opened in a limited number of theaters and quickly disappeared.  The subject matter did not particularly interest me and I, like most of the nation, did not go to see it. I did not think about it for many years until –October 2009 to be exact (I keep records of things like that)– I saw it listed on the site I buy DVDs. I ordered it along with R.U Ready, Turn It Up and Oolala Sisters… not one of my stellar moments. I then proceeded not to watch it until this past weekend.  I was informed that it was Easter… a holiday I haven’t really thought of in decades. As kids I liked egg hunts, chocolate rabbits and marshmallow peeps. We would have a duck dinner, watch Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail and the Ten Commandments. Come to think of it, I don’t why that latter film was shown annually on is religious but not very Eastery.  Anyway, after learning it was Easter, I thought I would watch an Easter-themed movie.  Going through my DVD collection, I quickly learned I have no movies about bunnies delivering colored eggs. While many of the movies I have contain religious plot elements–like Possessed or Untold Scandal– they did not seem to fit the bill. It appears I only have two movies that deal more directly with biblical themes; David and Goliath (directed in 1983 by Kim Cheong-gi, creator of Robot Taekwon V) and Jesus Is My Boss (directed by Koichi Saito, who never directed again). I tried watching Kim’s David when I bought the movie and not enough time has passed to make me want to attempt that again (It’s only been five years–were there bears in the Bible?–I have vague memories of David fighting a bear in that movie and even that, like the rest of the cartoon, was tedious)  So I went with Jesus Is My Boss.

Actually, this choice is probably more appropriate for the holiday. For one, just look at the above poster. A man carrying a cross from one end of Japan to the other and on to Korea in order to atone for his sins. Not only can’t you get more Eastery than that but the Korean titles is Mission Barabba, Barabba being the Aramaic name of Barabbas, the criminal who Pontius Pilate allegedly freed instead of Jesus in the cruxifiction story. 

The movie focuses on Yuji and Shima, member of rival branches of the Yakuza in Japan. These two share much in common. They both begin the film as ruthless killers loyal to their bosses, they both have Korean wives waiting patiently and praying fervently for their redemption and they both are eventually betrayed by the gangs they placed their faith in. Their reactions to betrayal are quite different, however. Yuji promises his wife that he will start over. After listening to another former Yakuza member give a sermon in church, Yuji gets the idea that he can attone for his sins by building a cross and carrying it from one end of Japan to the other. Along the way, he meets other gangsters and thugs who join him in his march. Shimi, however, wants to prove his worth to the Yakuza and decides that the only way he can do that is by killing his former rival, Yuji. 

This is really a terrible movie. The first half of the 139 minute film action. Gang fights, shootouts and general mayhem. That might be ok if done well, but it wasn’t. It was done more like a Korean action film from the mid 90’s.  Don’t know what I mean? Search out Charisma (1996), Unfixed (1996) or the unfathomable Underground (also 1996) and you will understand.  The scenes poorly edited, choppy and with laughable action. In this movie, their was a high gore factor with graphic dismemberments but, it was so over-the-top as to be unrealistic and did not change the films rating of ‘for ages 15 or higher.’  The second half of the film was not shy in its intention of promoting Christianity and was annoying me with it whole convert and be saved theme (I know, I know… I should have been expecting that and I was..I just have a low tolerance for it)  Both of those problems are simply a matter of tastes–someone else may have enjoyed them. However, the film had bigger problem I found even more grating. It seemed very anti-Japanese.

Every Japanese male in the movie was Yakuza or former Yakuza. Every Korean in the film was a kneel-down-and-pray-with-me Christian. There is a strange sugar-coating of hostilities expressed in the film. More than one character says something like, “There are many good Japanese people BUT…”  and the ‘compassionate’ Korean priest working in Japan scolds Yuji wife (a Korean) for marrying him. “Did your parents approve of you marrying a Japanese?’ he asks and upon receiving negative reply launches into a story of how he was forced as a young priest to do missionary work in Japan and how much he hated it. This made me question why he was still there– he clearly was has been out of the seminary for a good 30 years. It seems to me he could have asked for a transfer of parishes…

Then again, maybe he did. The film was primarily in Japanese and so I had to rely on the English subtitles. But these were horrible! They required translation in their own right for me to understand. And at several points in the film, the subtitles disappear for a short time as if the translator did not know how to change what was being said and just decided to skip it, hoping that it would not be important.

I really cannot recommend this film. It is an unknown movie for a reason..better it remains that way…

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