REVIEW: AI Amok gets dragged down by a second act that runs amok

Marcus Goh

Makoto Sakuraba (Takanori Iwata), Kosuke Kiryu (Takao Osawa), and Satoshi Nishimura (Kento Kaku) in AI Amok. (PHOTO: Encore Films)

Rating: PG13
Length: 131 minutes
Director: Yu Irie
Writers: Yu Irie
Cast: Takao Osawa, Takanori Iwata, Satoshi Nishimura, Kumi Okuse

If AI Amok's premise sounds familiar, that's because you've probably seen it before in other science fiction movies. There's nothing wrong in using a common premise though, especially since the film manages to update it to today's modern context. However, it does drag the story out for a little too long and forgets its premise for much of Act Two, which is what pulls down an otherwise decent sci-fi flick.

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Kento Kaku as Satoshi Nishimura in AI Amok. (PHOTO: Encore Films)

The Japanese science fiction thriller takes place in a futuristic Japan which is run by an all-powerful AI, or artificial intelligence. However, when the AI goes rogue, its creator has to return to find a way to bring it back under control. It's a battle of man vs machine, but a much more sinister conspiracy lurks behind it all — a conspiracy that could spell doom for the whole country.

The whole idea of a computer system defying its creators is a story that many science fiction narratives have told before. But it is more relevant than ever in today's world, given how we are all subject to unfathomable algorithms that seemingly change on a whim, like Facebook and Instagram's, for example. Of course, humans are behind those changes, but that doesn't make it any less frightening. AI Amok's story parallels that of society very well, down to the complex relationship between humans and machines.

Takao Osawa as Kosuke Kiryu and Kento Kaku as Satoshi Nishimura in AI Amok. (PHOTO: Encore Films)

However, the science fiction film becomes a weird thriller-chase action movie after its first Act, with a scientist as the main character of said thriller-chase action movie. It's a thoroughly strange decision, because it completely forgets its premise and becomes a totally different beast that runs amok. There's a fairly charming bit partway, where lead character Kosuke Kiryu (Takao Osawa) has to outwit electronic surveillance in a humans vs technology conflict, but other than that you can't really tell that the action scenes are from a science fiction film.

It also reflects another issue with the movie — you know exactly how it'll end. That's what exacerbates the saggy middle of the film, since there's no tension, no surprise, no doubt that the hero is going to succeed. After all, how can machines possibly triumph in a film about man vs machine? The movie plays it as if the audience is worried about whether the main character will overcome the obstacles in his path, when it's really more about how the main character will overcome the obstacles he faces.

Takanori Iwata as Makoto Sakuraba in AI Amok. (PHOTO: Encore Films)

Thankfully, the movie ends on a dramatic and impactful note, so at the very least it has a strong conclusion that complements an exciting beginning. You can see the villain from a mile away, but the big revelation and confrontation is staged well, even if it can come across a bit forced.

Being a film about AI, AI Amok does leave some food for thought and poses certain questions about our dependence on machines, but it's nothing new if you like science fiction movies. It leaves enough plot threads for a sequel, although it's fairly unlikely that will happen soon in the current climate.

Takao Osawa as Kosuke Kiryu in AI Amok. (PHOTO: Encore Films)

AI Amok tries its best to make you think about the subject matter, and it does have some interesting bits. It ends up being bogged down by a horrific second Act, which completely deflates any tension that might have been generated in Act One. It is a good attempt at a movie, but not necessarily a good movie, with many, many sequences that should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Score: 3/5

Release date:
Singapore – 19 March

Marcus Goh is a television scriptwriter who writes for “Crimewatch”, as well as popular shows like “Lion Mums”, “Code of Law”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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