Movie Review: “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter”

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“Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” didn’t really happen. It’s an urban legend.
It’s sort of like “Fargo” that way.
That’s the movie that Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi of “Pacific Rim”) stumbles across while beach-combing near Tokyo. It’s buried in the sand in a cave. This VHS must have something to tell her!
A loner, a passive aggressive “office lady” who doesn’t fit in with her colleagues, she hates running into more successful friends, doesn’t call her mother enough and generally avoids human contact.
But parsing the scenes of a waterlogged videotape is something she can manage. She sees a tale of kidnapping and murder in snowy Minnesota. She watches a bloodied Steve Buscemi leave a car on a blizzard-blown back road, cross a barbed wire fence and bury a bag of money.
It must still be there!
Kikuchi’s Kumiko doesn’t say any of this aloud. She and the Zellner Brothers, who wrote and directed this, get that across with just a pained, desperate face. She’s failing at life and work, but this treasure quest could be just the ticket.
She takes copious notes, tries to steal an atlas from the library, traces the TV screen to get the exact fence pattern of the burial site. Then she blows everything she has, and then some, to go to Minnesota to find the loot. In the winter.
The Zellner Brothers mimic “Fargo” in the deadpan nature of the humor here, especially the culture clash as this naive Japanese woman tries to make her way from Minneapolis to Fargo.
“This is not the right time of year to go sightseeing,” one of many helpful Minnesotans (Shirley Venard) assures her.
“Go FARGO,” Kumiko barks.
“You don’t want to go there, honey. Trust me. I’ll take you to The Mall of America. It’s really fun!”
The serene and forlorn snowscapes echo the Coen Brothers’ greatest movie, and the story evolves from quest to odyssey as Kumiko clings to her delusion and we start to wonder if maybe this loon isn’t onto something, that maybe the Coens WERE trying to tell us something. And only Kumiko and the Zellners figured that out.

3stars2MPAA Rating: unrated

Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, Shirley Venard, David Zellner
Credits: Written and directed by David Zellner, Nathan Zellner. An Amplify Media release.

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