Though it may very well be stating the obvious, I think it’s best to preface this review by telling you all that the only people who are going to take ANY interest in this film are fans of the Lupin III animated series and it’s subsequent string of animated movies. Your Average Joe with no concept of the Lupin III universe or characters isn’t going to find any entertainment value from this movie, and honestly, even the biggest Lupin III fan isn’t going to enjoy this movie, either.
The plot is no different than any of Lupin’s animated outings, and even features a “First Encounter”-style approach where all the cast meets for the first time. Essentially, Lupin III is the world’s greatest thief, descended from the infamous French thief, Arsene Lupin. To a man who can steal anything he wants, the world is Lupin’s oyster. However, all that changes one day when he meets the gorgeous cat-burglar, Mine Fujiko. Being the sex-offender that he is, Lupin immediately takes to her, despite her manipulative personality, and they become partners in crime.
Now enter Daisuke Jigen, world-renowned marksman and lone survivor of Lupin II’s vast criminal empire. He seeks to join forces with Lupin III so that he might rebuild the “Lupin Empire” but finds this Lupin to be arrogant and uncooperative. But despite that, they quickly become friends, and along with Fujiko, plot the world’s greatest jewel-heist.
And next we meet the short-fused Inspector Zenigata, whom joined by two bumbling assistants, has dedicated his life to tracking down and apprehending Lupin III. But Zenigata isn’t the only one after the main character; the Mafia’s Maccerrone Family (pronounced “Macaroni”) wants to bump Lupin off to ensure that he never has the opportunity to rebuild the Lupin Empire. And if all this wasn’t complicated enough, there are bounty hunters on the trio’s tail and a race to see which party can get a priceless, ancient statue with strange psychokinetic powers first.
This film was made way back in the early 1970’s at the height of Lupin’s popularity in Japan. So like much of the Lupin animation produced in the same time-period, this whole thing is going to seem very dated. But, unlike Lupin’s animated adventures from the 70’s, lacks that nostalgic charm and instead presents us with everything from the 70’s we’d wish to forget.
The plot also does some unwelcome tinkering with the origins of each character; something just about any Lupin fan is sure to take offense to. Despite that, the actors cast to play each character fit the bill well-enough. Lupin is of French descent, so hiring a Japanese actor to portray him irked me at first, but they quickly address the fact and reveal that his mother was Japanese. Jigen is supposed to be of American origin (having been on the run from the Chicago mob in the original cartoons and comics), but since he has a completely different origin in this movie, I’d say his appearance works just fine save for having a goatee instead of a beard. Fujiko transitioned from cartoon to reality quite accurately, save for her most recognizable feature (her mountainous chest) being left behind. Zenigata suffers the most, however. He’s been stripped of his trench-coat and hat and given a business suit, instead. The oafish assistants he’s been saddled with are neither funny nor a part of the source material and will inspire nothing but frustration from the audience.
The atmosphere of the movie is EXTREMELY silly, so don’t be expecting some dark, violent Lupin epic. The director makes it obvious his intent is to create a live action cartoon; emphasis on “cartoon”. Characters get flattened into pancakes against walls, chase each other through corridors ala Scooby Doo, get coated in black soot after bombs explode in there faces, and more than once, Lupin directly addresses the audience.
These gags are very hit-or-miss. Some times they are ingeniously funny, like when Lupin shows how he kills a bounty hunter in slow-motion, or when Jigen opens up his jacket to reveal a psychotic arsenal of guns. However, most of them are much too childish and don’t fit in with the other very raunchy, and occasionally very violent, gags that appear through-out the film.
I recommend this movie to the hardcore Lupin III fans only, and even then I suggest you view it for its historical significance to the franchise and not as a particularly good live action adaptation of the comics or cartoons.