This one is for the girls. Now, if while reading this you find that you’re not a girl, you can take my word for it or you can go ahead and watch it, but you’d better not say I didn’t warn you. I don’t want this to be the case of course, not because I’m personally not a girl (because I am) but because I suspect that if I could call this film something else, this review would be a hell of a lot more intelligent. Instead, I’m probably going to have to waffle on for oh about 500 words about how pretty J-rock band L’arc en Ciel vocalist Hyde is, how I wish Etsushi Toyokawa had been in it just a little longer (like about 100 minutes longer), how freakishly good looking Japanese mega-popstar Gackt is and how good Taiwanese idol Wang Lee-Hom looks in a suit. Because — and this is the key — there is very little else in the way of complimentary that I can say about it. Yes, it’s a sad day indeed when the only nice thing you can say about something is how pretty it looks.
Of course, that hasn’t stopped a lot of blockbuster American films from being made (nor a lot of actresses getting lead roles in those blockbusters) so perhaps I shouldn’t be quite so harsh in my evaluation. Moon Child, after all, has all the right elements lined up to be the makings of a good film. It’s got the initial set-up – a lonely vampire who’s lost faith in living crossing paths with a young street punk who’s too young to die. It’s got plot line — members of two rival gangs, separated by race and culture, crossing paths and finding some kind of kinship, yet doomed to face each other in conflict. It’s got action, and a little bit of romance. It’s got angst and drama. It’s even got an excellent support cast, starting with the five minute cameo by Toyokawa as the lagging vampire master, followed by another sterling appearance by Susumu Terajima (one of Japan’s best unknown actors) as fish-fixated buddy to Sho, and ending with Ryo Ishibashi, who does rough, jaded cops (or gangsters) better than anyone outside of Hong Kong.
What it doesn’t have, much to my utter disappointment, is guys who can act.
Such a shame, because it’s got all those other nice things. It could have been a really good film. It could have made girls across the country swoon, made hearts flutter. Unfortunately, you’ll be pushing it for a few sighs and most of those will probably either happen because it’s raining (for reasons very similar to the male interest in wet t-shirts) or because the main characters are angsting over each other. Maybe. The lack of acting ability (or the tendency to over-act) sort of spoils the moment in that respect, but that’s easily overlooked when the main cast is as attractive as these men are.
And it’s also a shame because with a little more ability, the story, for all that it’s basically a standard, I’m-a-lonely-bloodsucker vampire story, could have been really gripping. The main narrative revolving around the relationship between vampire Kei (Hyde) and young designer punk Sho (Gackt) hints at deep, messy, complicated and magnetic. The dynamic between the two seems to shift fluidly between friends, family and co-dependants (vampire stories being no stranger to homoerotic subtext), but the fact that these two songbirds just can’t act is a serious handicap to any major emotional investment in the characters or their problems. The dialogue doesn’t help either, but we won’t go into that except to say that to be fair, it’s not all the actors fault that this film isn’t as good as it might have been. And the cast, also to be fair, have their moments (not many of them, but they do have them).
So it’s not a total loss. And really, if you’re up for some candy, you could probably do worse than an hour and a half or so of some fairly attractive men, some almost interesting storyline, some amusingly bad acting and some very, very nice clothes. Oh and some alright music, most notably the closing track, a gorgeous, forlorn ballad by our leading men doing what they indisputably do best – not acting.