|Lupin III: Stolen Lupin|
I dread when I have another Lupin title to review. Don't get me wrong...I've been a Lupin fan for a very long time. This website being what it is, I don't have to review any title I don't want to...so what's the deal? I sure love the idea of Lupin, and some of his adventures over the last 40 years have been fantastic. But frankly, there's a lot of crappy Lupin out there. I tend to give it a pass because I like the franchise, but reality is starting to sink in...when it comes to the 90-minute television films, they sometimes just plain stink. I've given a lot of B- grades to shows that, in retrospect, were worse than that.
Which is why it is a relief to tell you that Lupin III: Stolen Lupin is actually a fun time. There are four categories of Lupin films, in my opinion: the phenomenal, the solid, the OK, and the abysmal. This film fits into the top of that second tier.
The film starts with a heist...but not by our famous mastermind. Instead, it's by a young copycat named Becky who's interested in proving herself better at theft than the master of stealth himself! But as we quickly learn, the title is very true...as the first caper ends, Lupin is stolen away by a band of letharios. He's got to steal a jewel that's cursed...supposedly, no one has lived long enough after taking it to boast of their accomplishment. And if he doesn't do the job, Fujiko's life is on the line. As the high-stakes hijinks continue, we find that Becky really desires Lupin's help to get revenge on the man who killed her mother Cat, one of his former associates...and we learn the capture of the cursed million-dollar bauble is just part of a larger scheme to capture Lupin's own treasure collection!
As I've discussed in various ways before, Lupin III adventures are rather like those of James Bond...except in the very best tales, there's not going to be any character growth among the leads. What matters are the set pieces, the dialogue...not so much the "what" but the "how." And overall, Stolen Lupin acquits itself nicely. Becky's character is likable without being annoying, and her story is strong enough to make her a welcome addition. The action is often great. The villains don't stand out, but they get the job done. The robberies are nicely handled, and there are enough double-crosses and sidesteps to keep the audience guessing. The humor quotient is just about perfect, funny but not overdone. There's really no area of the film that falls apart.
On the disappointing side, I wish they had fully explored Becky as a capable foil to Lupin. It's clear that she knows her way around a casing, and I would have loved a real competition between the two. Unfortunately, in the second half that concept is abandoned to focus on Becky's revenge plot which is nowhere near as interesting (if not even cliche). This makes the middle drag a bit. Thankfully, when we get into the final third and the search for Lupin's secret hideout, it comes together nicely. They could have also done a better job perking up the bad guys. I guess I miss the days when the antagonists had good one-liners.
Those who've seen the other Lupin telefilms will have an idea of how this one looks. It's not as beautiful as the "special specials" that celebrate Lupin anniversaries, but it's fine. The score wisely uses the original theme without relying on it, and while it's unmemorable, it was appropriate.
Fans should be really pleased with Stolen Lupin. In fact, there are only a few Lupin films I'd rate higher, and it'd be an easy rewatch. I still miss the sparkle of the best adventures of our heroic cad, but if you've gotten through the Lupin trifecta of Cagliostro, Plot of the Fuma Clan, and First Contact, this would be a good next step.