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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (review)

Terrorists blow up a tanker truck on a crowded city highway, spreading a deadly bioweapon… and that’s just their warm-up. Don’t worry — this isn’t breaking news, it’s just the movie version of the anime import TV series that runs here in the States on Cartoon Network. The “cowboys” are a band of bounty hunters — seemingly the only effective law enforcement on urban Mars in 2071, where corporate interests rule even the cops — and the large reward posted for the capture of the terrorists entices Spike Spiegel (the voice of Steven Jay Blum) and Faye Valentine (the voice of Wendee Lee) and their forever-broke gang to join the hunt. Not that I quite grasped all that from the movie itself — this is a bewildering introduction to the world of CB, particularly for an anime neophyte like me, but an enjoyable one nevertheless. Studiously ignoring Faye’s absurd Barbie-esque figure and highly impractical wardrobe as well as Spike’s noirishly portentous voiceovers, I just relaxed and enjoyed the clever animation (the “old Western” at the drive-in was particularly amusing) and the intriguing world of Alba City: a little Paris, a little London, a lot Hong Kong, a lot New York. Director Shinichiro Watanabe and his animators so brilliantly capture the chaos and the urgency of city life that I can forgive the outta-nowhere Star Wars air-combat scene toward the end. But I still have to ask: Why is that genius computer hacker girl named “Edward”?

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MPAA: rated R for some violent images

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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