I’M FLASH! (Japan, 2012)

I'M FLASH!Written and directed by maverick filmmaker Toshiaki Toyoda, who brought us Monsters Club (2011), a unique vision of the story of the Unabomber, I’M FLASH! is a quasi-gangster film involving a religious cult that generates a lot of money and power for those in charge.

Tatsuya Fujiwara (Battle Royale, Death Note) stars as Rui Yoshino, the young and charismatic guru of a cult known as “Life is Beautiful” that has a lot of followers and a lot of money.  One night, the arrogant Rui meets Rumi (Kiko Mizuhara) in a bar and the two decide to go for a late-night, booze-fueled ride. Rui learns soon enough that it is potentially the ride of his life as Rumi’s sister was a member of the cult and committed suicide.  Rumi is seeking revenge but has an unnerving impact on Rui.  The high-speed ride ends in a fatal crash, with the death of a motorcycle rider and Rumi in a coma.  Rui is physically unscathed, but potentially in a lot of trouble.  Body guards are hired to protect the guru but it becomes evident that Rui’s life is in danger from within his family’s cult, not from the outside.

The film begins with the accident and proceeds on a fairly linear route, interspersed with flashbacks of the events leading up to the crash.  Beautifully shot and written, I’M FLASH! gives a peek into the almost gangster-like world of the “Life is Beautiful” cult and Rui’s family, who have led the cult for generations.  Rui attracts many followers, especially young women, but after the accident he begins to question his direction in life.  He no longer wants to be the guru, trying at one point to talk his transvestite brother into stopping his hormone treatments and taking over (the guru must be a male).  When Rui goes to see his mother, she seems sympathetic but is anything but.  Her main concern is keeping the cult going and she takes some drastic steps to ensure there is no change in the lifestyle she has become accustomed to.  Rui’s brother gives him a cryptic warning and Rui attempts to change the inevitable course of events.I'M FLASH!

Rui is very upset by the accident and by what he realizes about himself—that he’s self-centered and manipulative.  Rui’s mother and sister are cold and ruthless, doing whatever is necessary to sustain the religious cult—including murder, which is hinted at by Rui’s brother.  The action is slick and stylish and the story is creepy and disturbing.  This is no horror film but the real-life monsters hiding in plain sight are pretty terrifying.  I’M FLASH! is an excellent film that sold out its screening at the Japan Cuts film festival.