I’ve read that this film was intended as a copy of the modern Hollywood action movie. Maybe. But its alternate history “Diesel-punk” setting just doesn’t seem like anything the equivalent American films would ever indulge in.
The fiend himself was originally one of the villains of Edogawa Rampo’s popular stories about master detective Akechi Kogorō. Novelist Sô Kitamura later reimagined him, transforming him into the hero while drastically changing Kogoro. It is as if someone made a movie in which Moriarty was the detective and Holmes the head of a huge criminal gang.
As an action movie, K-20 is far more than adequate, although one might accuse it of being a bit smarter than the usual mindless Hollywood variant. There are all the requisite chills, spills and thrills, with a lot of acrobatics, heroics and even a surprisingly complex plot – for this sort of movie.
For the hardcore SF fan, however, the best part of this solid and well-made film is the surprise appearance of a legendary, real-myth weapon which we all know a certain near mythical real inventor created. Oh, and all the great Diesel-punk Autogyros and other lovely toys.
I guess the Japanese know that even the nerdiest among us love popcorn.
(the movie can be found here.)