Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter

kumiko the treasure hunter2We all love stories about underdogs undertaking the impossible. Director and co-screenwriter David Zellner’s (Goliath) film is based on a Japanese urban myth about a woman found frozen in the Minnesota snow while trying to find a buried briefcase filled with money. The woman had apparently gotten the idea about the money from the Coen brothers’ film, Fargo. The brothers Zellner, David and co-screenwriter and actor Nathan took the story and ran with it. Ran making it an odd film in which you find yourself cheering for our timid and outcast heroine.

Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi – Pacific Rim, 47 Ronin) is a 29-year-old young woman living in Tokyo. She leads a rather solitary life just really connecting with her rabbit, Bunzo. Both her mother and her boss believe her to be leading a useless life. Her tiny flat is where she spends most of her time watching and re-watching the film Fargo. Kumiko is a treasure hunter and on one of her quests into a cave she finds a battered VHS copy of the film. Bringing it home the Coen brothers film becomes her reason for living. Entranced by a scene with a man burying a briefcase filled with millions of dollars, Kumiko convinces herself it is real. She even stitches herself a map of where to find the briefcase in Fargo, Minnesota.

Fed up with her life in Tokyo, Kumiko takes her company’s credit card and flies to Minneapolis. When she arrives she is woefully underprepared as it is the dead of winter and she barely speaks English. Still she forges on with the unwavering belief that when she gets to Fargo she will find the money.

It is a film that starts off dark and remains mostly so until the last few moments which are filled with joy. As silly as you might find the premise behind the film and the absurdist way that it is presented onscreen, it is a film that largely works. A nice balance of comedy and drama told in an atypical way. Keeps you guessing right until the end. Quirky and off-center. Is it a horror? Is it a road film? Really in the end it is original and entertaining.

The absurd fable is quite engaging despite the fact it is rather silly a story. Zellner often uses the style of the Coen brothers in his film in a sort of ode to the minds behind Fargo.

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