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Negotiator: Mashita Masayoshi
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Yusuke Santamaria is Mashita Masayoshi in Negotiator.
Japanese: 交渉人 真下正義  
Year: 2005  
Director: Katsuyuki Motohiro  
  Producer: Chihiro Kameyama, Hirotsugu Usui, Toru Horibe, Chikahiro Ando
  Cast: Yusuke Santamaria, Susumu Terashima, Kotaro Koizumi, Toshiro Yanagiba, Miki Mizuno, Masanori Ishii, Jun Kunimura
  The Skinny: When a terrorist hijacks an experimental train and threatens the safety of the Japanese people, it's up to the nation's top negotiator to save the day. This entertaining spin-off of the highly-successful Bayside Shakedown series feels like a throwback to the Die Hard-inspired action flicks of the 1990s, but it also possesses an undeniable "Japanese-ness" that elevates the material in surprising ways.
   
Review by Calvin McMillin:

The popular Bayside Shakedown franchise undergoes yet another permutation in 2005's Negotiator: Mashita Masayoshi, a thrilling, highly amusing action film that proves to be a worthy successor to the beloved series that spawned it. While the Bayside Shakedown phenomenon began as an 11-episode television series (plus three TV specials), morphed into two hit films, and produced such cinematic spin-offs as this film and The Suspect: Shinji Muroi, the franchise shows no signs of slowing down. On paper at least, the plot for Negotiator: Mashita Masayoshi seems like yet another by-the-numbers action film. Director Katsuyuki Motohiro, who also helmed the other Bayside Shakedown films, puts heavy emphasis on the characters and their interactions with one another, a touch that helps enhance the proceedings considerably.

As played by comedian Yusuke Santamaria, the film's title character is anything but a typical action hero. As Tokyo's best and apparently only police negotiator, Mashita Masayoshi has garnered a considerable amount of press. The film kicks off with Mashita addressing the media in the aftermath of the events of Bayside Shakedown 2, an appearance that ends up drawing the attention of the film's enigmatic villain. More than a year later, a crisis strikes Japan when a state-of-the-art prototype super train called the Spider E4-600 is hijacked and electronically sabotaged, causing it to wreak havoc in the labyrinthine underground railways just beneath the city of Tokyo. Police Superintendent Shinji Muroi (Toshiro Yanagiba) calls upon Mashita to handle the case, since the mystery terrorist known only as "Bullet Express" has requested Mashita's participation in this little game of cat and mouse. However, it's no ordinary game - three bombs are set to go off, but when and where?

However, as respected as one might think Mashita would be among his comrades, the exact opposite proves true. His peers sneer at his so-called celebrity status, his Negotiation Task Force is undermanned and on the verge of being phased out, and Muroi himself has had to put his job on the line for Mashita in the hope he'll pull through. And to make matters worse, he's supposed to meet his girlfriend, fellow detective Yukino Kashiwagi (Miki Mizuno) at the opera for an important, possibly life-changing date. Of course, there's no time for love when the terrorist on the loose!

Along with his team of experts, Mashita sets up shop in the control room of the Tokyo Transportation Railway. Despite the dire crisis at hand, Mashita and his team aren't exactly welcomed with open arms, as the TTR boss Kataoka (Jun Kunimura) doesn't trust Mashita's expertise and believes he can handle the problem himself. While Mashita tries to figure out how to smooth things over with Kataoka, fate intervenes when a cheery PR guy named Yano (Masanori Ishii) feeds Mashita classified TTR information to help him unravel the mystery. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking not only on the potential bomb threat, but on Mashita's big date, both of which turn out to be on a collision course with one another.

What really sets this movie apart from others of its kind is its protagonist, Mashita Masayoshi. Rather than give audiences yet another action movie hero in the vein of Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mashita isn't quite as macho. In fact, he's a bit of a dork. But what the movie makes clear is that Mashita isn't some lucky bumbler. No, while he may be somewhat meek and deferent to his colleagues, he's actually quite proficient at what he does. As the movie progresses, Mashita's status as Tokyo's top negotiator turns out to be truer than anyone expects.

Although the film is full of great supporting performances, the one supporting player who stands out the most is Susume Terajima as Takeichi Kijima, a hilarious, hardboiled cop who takes charge of the manhunt above ground while Mashita carries out his negotiations from subway command. His take-no-prisoners attitude and cocky swagger makes for a hilarious counterpoint to Mashita's polite, "Can't we all just get along?" demeanor. In fact, humor is one of the driving forces of this film, a welcome change of pace from the more serious tone these movies tend to take.

Those looking for a pulse-pounding conclusion in which Mashita goes one-on-one with the terrorist will be sorely disappointed. Despite its action flick roots, Negotiator: Mashita Masayoshi is as much about cutting through bureaucratic red tape and winning the respect of your colleagues as it is about putting the villain behind bars. If anything, the film seems to promote the idea that if you put your mind to it and work hard enough, you can accomplish just about anything. The same could go for the filmmakers involved here. They made a sequel with a B-movie plot that amounts to something more absorbing, entertaining, and downright funny than it had any right to be. Considering the surprising quality of this film, here's hoping there will be a few more Bayside Shakedowns in the future, and definitely more adventures featuring Mashita Masayoshi and his quirky Negotiator Task Force! (Calvin McMillin, 2006)

   
Availability: DVD (Japan)
Region 2 NTSC
Pony Canyon
2-Disc Standard Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS, 2.0
Removable English and Japanese Subtitles
Various Extras
Also see: Bayside Shakedown (1998)
Bayside Shakedown 2 (2003)
Bayside Shakedown 3: Set the Guys Loose! (2010)

Bayside Shakedown 4: The Final (2012)
The Suspect: Muroi Shinji (2005)
   
   
 
 
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