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The Fable [2019] Review: A genre-blurring film that is refreshingly unique

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The Fable (ザ・ファブル) is a live-action adaptation of Katsuhisa Minami’s manga of the same name. The film follows its titular hitman (Junichi Okada) who operates in the Tokyo underworld. He is known as Fable because he is a savant hitman who is considered to be an urban legend due to his impressive skills and his meticulously concealed identity. One day, after successfully completing an assassination mission, Fable and his handler (Fumino Kimura) are ordered by their boss (Koichi Sato) to take a year off in Osaka where Maguro office, a yakuza clan, will accommodate them and help them lay low. The boss warns Fable that if he kills anyone during the one-year sabbatical, he will face a punishment – death. Thus, Fable must fulfill his most challenging mission yet: to live a normal life as a law-abiding citizen under the alias Akira Sato. His handler is given an alias as his sister Yoko Sato.

After relocating to Osaka, Fable is faced with various threats that try to suck him back into the world of violence and killing. Maguro office, run by Hamada (Ken Mitsuishi) and Ebihara (Ken Yasuda), is the major source of the threats. Kojima (Yuya Yagira), a recently released convict of the aforementioned yakuza group, stirs up trouble by threatening Misaki (Mizuki Yamamoto), Fable’s new friend and potential love interest. There is also an intra-gang rivalry between Kojima and another yakuza named Sunagawa (Osamu Mukai) that complicates the plot. Meanwhile, on Fable’s tail are contract killers, Fudo (Sota Fukushi) and his partner Kudo (Ryo Kimura), who want to become urban legends by killing Fable. Director Kan Eguchi throws in so many pieces and does a pretty good job of stringing it all together. Everything leads to the criminal underbelly of Osaka – complete with contract killers and yakuza – to collide in the lengthy and action-packed climax.

Similar to The Fable – The Beguiled [2017]: A Fable turned nightmare

The Fable, at times, feels tonally inconsistent and imbalanced due to the effects of genre-blurring. While the beginning and the end of the film are action-packed, everything in between is mainly comedy, drama, and a little bit of romance. However, the film somehow manages to avoid morphing into a complete mess. In fact, it can even be said that the imbalance is what makes the film refreshingly unique.

The Fable

On one hand, there are flashes of slick John Wick style action. Although the violence of the action scenes sometimes feels toned down due to the slapstick elements, the action sequences are well-choreographed. On the other hand, there are recurring jokes that are over-the-top silly such as when Fable laughs at the mediocre gags of a second-rate TV comedian or when he burns his tongue and reacts exaggeratedly while trying to eat hot food. Fable’s charming and carefree handler Yoko also has some hilarious moments as a result of her excessive drinking (side note: I would love to see Yoko as the main character in a spin-off film).

Furthermore, the contrast between all the frenetic yakuza kerfuffle and the relatively leisure pace of Fable’s new and “ordinary” life as an employee at a design company adds to the film’s uniqueness. The film also offers drama and depth by incorporating several flashbacks of Fable’s past. These flashbacks provide an explanation of his weird habits, his lack of social skills, and his relationship with his boss. As for the romance, it would have been nicer to see Fable’s potential romantic relationship with Misaki to make some kind of progress. However, it is perhaps for the best that the romance is on the subtle side since the mishmash of genres – action, comedy, drama, and romance – is what makes the film an exhilarating watch.

Also, Read – White Snake [2019]: ‘NYAFF’ Review – A Fable Told with Breathtaking Animation

Overall, The Fable is an impressive adaptation despite its flaws. It is absurdly enjoyable enough to make you look forward to the sequel which is expected to be released in 2021. It will be interesting to see how the sequel will amp up the various genres of the first film.

                                                     ★★★1/2

The Fable Trailer

The Fable Links – IMDb

 

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