"One Piece Film: Gold" (4 out of 10) – Based on the manga “One Piece” created by Eiichiro Oda; Directed by Hiroaki Miyamoto; Written by Tsutomu Kuroiwa; Starring: Brina Palencia, Christopher Sabat, Keith Silverstein, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Patrick Seitz, Eric Vale, and Amber Lee Conors; In select theaters January 10 – 17, 2017.
It’s important for me to mention right at the start that I went into this movie completely blind. Not only had I never seen or read any of “One Piece” prior to sitting down, I’d never even heard of it. If you’re looking for a review from someone familiar with the material, this isn’t it. Instead, what you’re about to get are the meandering thoughts of the uninitiated. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
The first five or ten minutes of “One Piece Film: Gold” (everything prior to the title sequence) is a jumbled assortment of chaos. I found myself wondering what I had gotten into and if I had the mental fortitude to make it through unscathed. We open on a burlesque club, or something similar, there’s a musical number, a ringleader who looks like Jared Leto’s joker as trained by Schwarzenegger, a dude with a gun mounted to his head, and the orphaned son of Plastic Man. The ringleader has a mental Midas touch or something, at some point someone is turned to gold.
After this first sequence concludes things slow down, not much, but enough to wrap your head around. It turns out Plastic Man’s son is a pirate and he’s come to the great ship Fake Las Vegas with his crew. A scantily clad woman (one of many) greets them as VIPs in a car powered by turtles. Allow me to elaborate on this for a moment because I think it needs clarifying. We’re not talking about a turtle drawn carriage, we’re talking about a car with an engine powered by turtles, eight rare muscle turtles to be specific. I was willing to accept this on its face until it was revealed that the turtles are spurred on by electricity. Why not just drive an electric car? This is turtle slavery for turtle slavery’s sake. The depths of the reptilian servitude go much deeper it turns out, when we are shown that the six-mile-long casino ship is pulled by, you guessed it, two gigantic turtles. It’s turtles all the way down.
Once inside the casino, the crew is given a massive pile of chips with which to gamble. These chips come with no strings attached, they're promised, and they can trust that because casinos are always in the habit of giving away huge sums of money. Though, perhaps turtle slavery has impressive profit margins. What do I know?
Shortly, the crew wins thirty-million… whatever the hell the money is called on slaver’s bay, berries I think. As a result, they are offered a spot in the VIP room where there are high-risk, high-reward games. Really, there’s only one game. It involves giant dice, acrobatics, and an axe wielding maniac. Who wouldn’t want to play?!
Buff Joker arrives and challenges tiny Plastic Man to a wager, which he loses because the whole thing was an elaborate setup, obviously, involving a literal lady luck who can gift luck to embolden players and take it away when it best suits the casino. Once the crew have lost everything they are indebted to the ringleader and given 24 hours to pay their debt or watch one of their crewmates be executed, in front of a live audience. Things get real quick at Circus Circus on the sea.
What follows from here is something like “Ocean’s Eleven” meets “Prison Break.” There are Transponder Snails (sentient security cameras), many gratuitous naughty-bit shots, Uncle Scrooge’s money pit, and a thinly veiled allegory about how the rich get richer and poor die.
“The game is rigged and the people in power will make sure it stays that way.” we're told, unless of course you have a little bit of gumption, and a crew of super powered pirates on your side.
“One Piece Film: Gold” gets six stars for every time I said “what the hell is going on?” out loud while watching, but loses two for objectifying their female characters and not even having the class to hide it.