‘#Manhole’ Review: An Enjoyably Ludicrous Battle of Wits Between Man and His Greatest Adversary, Hole
It was either Nietzsche or Tex Avery – but one of our great philosophers – who argued that there are two types of people in this world: those who walk through life calmly unbothered by the wells and those who are destined to fall into their. Now, for curious members of the former class, comes an intimate examination of what it’s like to be one of the latter: “#Manhole,” Japanese director Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s slick, increasingly deranged survival thriller about a man who finally learns to know true nature from a hole in the ground.
Popular, successful and highly desirable, Shunsuke Kawamura (Yuto Nakajima, of Japanese boy band Hey! Say! JUMP) has the world at his feet. It’s the eve of his wedding to the pregnant daughter of his company’s CEO, and his co-workers have thrown a surprise party to reveal his good fortune. Walking home drunk from the festivities, Shunsuke suddenly trips. He reaches the bottom of a deep concrete shaft with an unpleasant opening, where his thigh interacts with the jagged edge of the broken access ladder. The moon is perfectly framed in the circular opening above.
In the manner of many space survival thrillers before, Shunsuke must use only those items at hand to plan his escape: his clothes, a lighter, and a stapler in his briefcase. Unlike many previous entries in the genre, however, these figures include a fully charged and connected smartphone, though a few odd glitches, such as a deleted call history and his initial reluctance to simply call the police, suggest there might be something to it. more awful. . Most of his contacts don’t respond to his distress call, but he eventually lands on one, though, as luck would have it, it’s disgruntled ex Mai (fellow J-popstar Nao) who’s hard to convince of her seriousness. his condition. The police, too, when they are finally called, are less than helpful.
With his GPS on the fritz and no idea where he actually is, Shunsuke turns to social media to help him get out of this jam, quickly creating a fake profile with a beautiful female avatar, reasoning that “ people want to help girls.” Gradually, “#Manhole” earns its hashtag, as much by manipulating a Twitter-like platform called Pecker and its neighboring users as by offline threats of a gas pipeline leak, blood loss, an increase in rain water. and a sudden surge of poisonous foam — all rendered viscerally by Yuta Tsukinaga’s cool, closed camera and Norifumi Ataka’s inventive lo-fi production design. Basically, Shunsuke hopes to get out of this hole.
For the first two acts, the pleasure is watching Shunsuke’s resourceful, occasionally devious problem-solving. And Michitaka Okada’s script avoids the most obvious survival-thriller tropes: Not once does the phone display a low-battery warning. the lighter never runs out of fuel. Even his more outlandish stunts—like setting the cell to record and tossing it through the manhole opening to get some clues about his surroundings—make you scream inwardly, “Don’t do that! Why do that?” just for not they end up in the obvious disaster for which they seem prepared.
But no amount of surprises can prepare you for the turn the film takes in its final third, when this “Buried” knockoff becomes an ersatz “Oldboy” instead. There are hints scattered throughout that there may be a kind of karmic justice at work: Just because you’re the victim of an a-hole doesn’t mean you’re not an a-hole, too. But no matter how diligently you follow the breadcrumb trail, it still leads to a twist so twisted that the whole thing threatens to break right up. No doubt it would be a stronger film if it stayed even remotely plausible (and if it stayed in its lane/hole throughout), but this precipitous swan-dive into the credulity cliff does achieve a kind of weightless, heavy-leaning grace. And the stark seriousness of the tone, aided by Takuma Watanabe’s swashbuckling, clockwork score and Nakajima’s increasingly frenzied performance, makes the gonzo nonsense all the more entertaining.
There are obvious shades of “Phone Booth” and “The Guilty” here and, like the latter, you can see “#Manhole” being pulled by some corporate American outfit for an unnecessary but attractively cheap English-language remake. It’s nowhere near as deep as the eponymous hollow, nor many of its sneaky #plotholes, but “#Manhole” is a fairly original mix of single-location thriller, internet cautionary tale, and WTF ridiculousness for an enjoyable dive into the unknown/unknown. The abyss, after all, can be counted on to stare existentially back at all who look its way. Who knows what mischief may be in store for the unfortunate sinner who falls wholly into it?