The hitman comedy blended with a romantic comedy in writer-director Uchida Kenji’s 2012 “Key of Life” came together very late (if at all). Amnesia as a basis for anything requires considerable suspension of disbelief on my part, but Kagawa Tereyuki (Devils on the Doorstep, Yureru) was quite sweet in trying to recover memory of a life that wasn’t his, that of broke actor Sakurai (Sakai Masato) who took his money and life before discovering that the life was that of a feared hitman, Kondo, whom his clients never saw. The workaholic, hyper-orgnized career woman played by Hirosue Ryôko (Dapartures) would strain credulity if she were American, but she’s Japanese, and “Key of Life” is a screwball comedy, or contains a lot of screwball romcom. She has picked a wedding date without having even a candidate to be the groom.
Uchida takes his time in setting up the lonely lead characters and complications, but the time (128 minutes, four of them closing credits) is IMO well-spent.
The yakusa+civlians comedy “Adrenaline Drive” (1999) is funnier, but the characters in “Key of Life” are more developed. Both include unlikely romantic couplings. Plus, he ersatz Saikaku gets cast as a gangster, a role that the real Saikaku has to play for higher stakes (three or four lives, including his own).
©2016, Stephen O. Murray