--Bank robbers who came to be loved by their hostages... For one brief moment on that strange day, the bank became a tropical paradise--

It's afternoon, just before closing time, when three gun-toting bank robbers burst into the Cosmo Bank. Unfortunately, their well planned heist runs into unexpected difficulties when the manager (Osugi) and the guard (Guts) lock themselves into the vault. The bank robbers, Tamotsu (Kaneshiro), Makoto (Ando) and Isao (Ikeuchi), are all long-time friends since childhood and these bonds help them cope with the increasingly dangerous situation as the police surround the bank.

In the bank lobby there are six people. Teller Midori Aida (Fukatsu), her colleague Shimizu (Komoto), Kurasawa (Takeno), owner of an electrical appliances store, the soon to be divorced Mr. & Mrs. Fukaura (Kakei and Suzuki) and a strange man holding a teddy bear (Watanabe). The three bank robbers take them as hostages. The teller, Midori, consumed with anger against her fianc? who escaped, leaving her in the bank, grabs Isao's rifle and begins firing. A stray bullet from this fusillade hits a police car which explodes.

The strange man holding the teddy-bear turns out to be the internationally wanted terrorist Hayato Sakamaki. What started out as a simple bank robbery turns into a much bigger drama.

Tamotsu, watching the police on TV, comes up with a plausible way out. The three robbers ask the hostages to pretend to be part of the gang. By doing so they let the police believe that there are more than 3 robbers. At first the hostages are surprised to hear this but soon they embrace Tamotsu's plan and the prospect of becoming famous.

A call is made to the police, the robbers declare themselves to be "Space Travelers" using the names of fictitious characters from a recently popular SF animation, and demand a ransom of 5 billion yen.

The hostages were introduced as part of the gang. At first they're tense and unsure but soon begin to enjoy introducing themselves in this provocative manner, particularly Midori who was in a drama group back in high school. She makes full use of her talents by acting out a death scene, pretending to have been shot by the bank robbers.

The robbers and the hostages order pizza and Shimizu takes a big risk by receiving the pizza when it arrives. Shimizu was unhappy with his personality, he thinks himself too weak. After receiving the pizza he comes back into the lobby and find a policeman disguised as a pizza deliverer, he acquires self confidence.

When Midori asks Tamotsu what they want money for, he takes out a picture of a tropical island. Everyone looks interestedly at the picture and we hear Tamotsu excitedly describe the tropical paradise that has been a dream for the three robbers since they were childhood.

The teddy-bear toting terrorist Sakamaki has recently slipped back into Japan to meet the daughter he's never seen. When Tamotsu decides to release Sakamaki, the terrorist hands the teddy bear to Tamotsu telling him it is actually a bomb which could easily destroy the entire building. Sakamaki manages to mingle with the released hostages and escape.

Shimizu accidentally triggers the bomb sending both hostages and robbers into panic. All except Kurasawa, the electronics expert, who calmly walks over, examines the teddy-bear bomb and then proceeds to pull out a red and a green wire. At this point it's a toss-up which wire will trigger the bomb and which will defuse it, Tamotsu is unsure but he chooses red. Makoto has a flash of inspiration and opts for the green wire, Tamotsu goes along with him. Mr. Fukaura attempts to shield the wife he is set to divorce and the excruciatingly long delay, before it's obvious the bomb will not go off, brings tension to a peak. Isao stares at the bomb. Nothing happens, the Space Travelers laugh gleefully and hug each other in relief.

In the soft morning sunlight the Space Travelers sleep. Tamotsu tells them that he'll release them all. Surprisingly the hostages try to think of ways that they can all get out and go safely to the tropical island paradise.

Suddenly a gunshot echoes through the lobby. Isao, who was on guard upstairs, has been shot in chest and he dies with a smile on his face. The two remaining robbers look at each other, then nod, before dashing outside in defiance of the army of policemen.

A few months later it is Christmas and Midori is strolling through the city. She comes to an abrupt halt when she spots Makoto wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the "Space Traveler" motif. She recalls what happened in the bank. She finds herself chasing after the three men when suddenly she notices an old episode of The Space Travelers playing on a huge screen in the middle of the city. With tears rolling down her cheeks Midori then and there decides that she will go and find the island paradise. The first snow drops of Christmas fall on her as if it were celebrating her decision.

production notes

Director Katsuhiro Motohiro had a massive hit with "BAYSIDE SHAKEDOWN (Odoru Daisosasen)", the fourth most profitable production in Japanese film history. A total of 7 million moviegoers paid 10 billion yen and firmly established Motohiro as a major player in the local film world.

Motohiro's latest work, "Space Travelers," can be called "Bank Robbery Entertainment." He chose this scenario, one of many stories shown to him, because the idea appealed to his sense of humor.

Three bank robbers attack the Cosmo Bank just before closing time. The plan is to get the money and be out within 5 minutes but various obstacles thwart their carefully laid plot. Police surround the bank and there is no easy escape for the bandits. In a humorous twist the bandits convince the hostages to help them using an incredible but realistic ruse.

The leader of the bandits is played by popular star Takeshi Kaneshiro. Eri Fukatsu plays the sympathetic teller and the cast is rounded out by the well-known stars Masanobu Ando, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Masatoshi Hamada and Ken Watanabe. The story is based on a play by the radical comedic band "Jobi Joba." This stage production was adapted for the screen by the dramatist Yoshikazu Okada, who delivers an extremely clever comedy with plenty of twists and turns.

The music is by Akihiko Matsumoto, long time collaborator of director Motohiro.

Motohiro promises audiences that they will laugh, cry and eventually be cheered by this incredibly funny and interesting film.

The film is extremely well made and is peppered with Motohiro's trademark surprising twists and turns. Besides the pleasure of enjoying the film audiences will also get to choose from a range of associated Space Traveler's goods, all of them of such high quality that the director has said he intends to buy as many as he can!

Every time you watch this movie you'll find something different to tweak your interest, Space Traveler is that kind of movie.



Masanobu ANDO
Hiroyuki IKEUCHI
Masatoshi HAMADA


Director: Katsuyuki MOTOHIRO
Screenplay: Yoshikazu OAKADA
Music: Akihiko MATSUMOTO
Producers: Hirotsugu USUI, Masatake KONDO, Toru HORIBE
Director of Photography: Osamu FUJIISHI
Lighting: Noritaka SHIIHARA
Sound: Kunio ASHIHARA
Art Design: Kensuke OKURA
Editing: Takuya TAGUCHI


10/10/00 "Hollywood Reporter"
By Richard James Havis

NEW YORK -- This trendy Japanese heist caper brings frisky humor to what could have been a run-of the-mill cops-and-robbers story. Former television director Katsuyuki Motohiro, who hit big with his blockbuster feature debut, "Bayside Shakedown," enlivens a robbery-turned-hostage drama with nifty characterizations and wry ideas.
"Space Travelers," reviewed on videotape, went top 10 in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, though it had much less staying power at home than "Bayside." Its pan- Asian success was probably abetted by the presence of Hong Kong heartthrob Takeshi Kaneshiro, whose Japanese-Chinese ancestry enables him to appeal to both cultures. It's a slick, well-managed affair with teen appeal -- the kind of fashion-conscious ensemble piece that Hong Kong producers have been striving to achieve with films like "Gen-X Cops." "Space Travelers" has no sci-fi element -- the title refers to the "Dragonball Z"-like animation series from which the gang takes its name. It begins with a fashionable trio of robbers, led by Tamotsu (a well-attired Kaneshiro), storming into an airy modern bank. The robbery is spotted by fumbling cops, the bank is surrounded quickly by police, and the trio threaten to kill hostages unless they are allowed to escape.
Events take an unusual turn when police discover that hostage Hayato (a tough- looking Ken Watanabe) is a wanted international terrorist. The cops assume that Hayato is the leader of the gang, which therefore must be a world-class terrorist unit. As soon as the gang members realize the police error, they become more ambitious and enlist the help of hostages to try to finagle a $50 million ransom out of the authorities. Most of the fun comes from watching the situation empower the nerdy hostages; the extended gang decides to model itself on a Space Age cartoon, "Space Travelers," and the members rename themselves after animated superheroes. Soon, the hostages live up to their two-dimensional namesakes. A quiet security guard overcomes his inferiority complex to become a brash thug, and a penny-wise shop owner excels as a bomb disposal expert.
"Space Travelers" is a talky piece, so it's no surprise to discover that screenwriter Yoshikazu Oakada adapted the work from a comedic stage play. Action scenes are executed neatly in a no-nonsense manner, but the dialogue during the punctuating moments of calm gives the film its grist. The chat of a bickering couple on the point of divorce and a soon-to-be-wed teller adds extra dimensions to the story.
Motohiro again proves himself a skillful storyteller, but emotions are pitched on a singular plane, and there are too few dramatic high or low points. More scenes of catharsis would have increased the film's grab factor. Still, a seemingly effortless command of plot structure marks Motohiro as a director to watch.


12/20/00 Space Travelers "Variety"

LONDON -- A bungled bank heist turns into a defining moment for both robbers and the robbed in "Space Travelers," a wonderfully entertaining blend of comedy, drama and pathos inventively staged and packaged by "Bayside Shakedown" helmer Katsuyuki Motohiro. Misleading title won't help pic's progress beyond Asia, but this certainly deserves outings at broader-minded fests, with sales to foreign-language webs also possible.

Though the film failed to repeat the boffo success of "Bayside" (reputedly the fourth most profitable movie in Japanese history) on release in the spring, it was a sturdy performer, and has since played other East Asian markets, helped by the presence of popular Japanese-Chinese thesp Takeshi Kaneshiro (from "Chung King Express" and a host of other Hong Kong movies). Unfortunately, given market realities, the shameful disregard by Western fests and buyers for "Bayside" could well be repeated with "Travelers" too. Title refers to a popular TV anime -- invented for the movie, and seen behind the opening titles -- about a bunch of interplanetary crusaders. Among its fans are boyish Fujimoto (Masanobu Ando) and gun-obsessed Takamura (Hiroyuki Ikeuchi), who join with fellow dreamer Nishiyama (Kaneshiro) to rob the giant Cosmo Bank in a Tokyo suburb. What looks like a simple five-minute job at closing time, followed by escape to a far-flung tropical island, turns into a 24-hour epic, as the inept robbers become trapped in the bank with a weird assortment of characters while a police SWAT team assembles outside. Adapted from a one-set play by the radical comedy troupe Jobi Joba, film largely takes place in the bank's main lobby, a giant candy-colored extravaganza by art director Kensuke Okura that's almost a character in its own right. With the manager and head of security trapped in the time-lock vault, and most of the remaining staff in a separate room, story mostly plays out among the three robbers and a handful of other characters, including shy teller Ada (Eri Fukatsu), wanted terrorist Sakamati (Ken Watanabe), an argumentative couple about to divorce and a nerdy electrician who's forgotten his PIN. Outside, the cops get totally confused, thinking the terrorist is the gang leader; inside, a bond slowly forms between the robbers and their prisoners, who then collude in a "ransom" scam for 5 billion yen. And when Fujimoto and Takamura note similarities to the protagonists in "Space Travelers," everyone assumes the identities of characters from the cartoon, further confusing the authorities. Well-paced script by dramatist Yoshikazu Okada goes for a gentle, slightly goofy humor, fully drawn personalities and a generally anti-authoritarian stance as the bunch of social losers takes on the rigid forces of Japanese law and order. On its own terms, the preposterous story is made believable -- and finally rather moving -- as the characters derive a kind of dignity from their new identities and sudden, center-stage stardom. Fukatsu is especially good as the downtrodden teller who blooms into an assured young woman, and veteran Watanabe evolves into a strong screen presence as the bomb-carrying terrorist. As the robbers' leader, the bilingual Kaneshiro, here performing in Japanese, downplays his natural good looks to blend seamlessly into the ensemble.

Though the pic has several surprises that recall the left-field twists of "Bayside," Motohiro reserves his most striking cinematic coup for the finale -- an almost soundless action-ballet played out to Faure's "Requiem." Elsewhere, helmer's regular composer, Akihiko Matsumoto, provides a fleshy symphonic score that nicely supports both the personal and the heroic aspects of the movie. Other technical credits are all top-drawer.

Directed by Katsuyuki MOTOHIRO Original Story by Yuichi KOJIMA
(C)Fuji Television, Toei, Robot