Gung Ho (1986)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Gung Ho</strong> (1986)

(In French, On TV, November 2018) No matter the era, America is always under siege. In the 1980s, even as détente was making the Soviets slightly less threatening, Americans discovered that the Japanese were going to outproduce everyone and buy everything. American industrial management were quick to obsess about Japanese production techniques: why was Toyota producing cars that were so much better than anything Detroit could turn out? 1986’s Gung Ho may not be a particularly well-known film these days despite being directed by Ron Howard, but it presents an impeccable take on the obsession of the time as a Japanese car company buys an American factory and starts imposing its methods. A significant culture clash ensues, spiced up by the fact that the American characters are being challenged to do better. Michael Keaton headlines the film with his usual charm, playing a foreman acting as the link between Japanese management and the American workers. Despite the obvious concessions to comedy, the film was reportedly used in Japan in order to understand how to manage American workers. The result is often more interesting as a time capsule than a conventional film—Howard directs unobtrusively, Keaton is his usual sympathetic self, Mimi Rogers shows up, a few more Howards (Clint and Rance) have supporting roles, and the film has a pleasant blue-collar atmosphere without being weighed down in the kind of dark drama that such mid-1980s setting usually accompanied. It’s watchable enough. A sequel, showing how American manufacturing adopted and adapted Japanese manufacturing techniques, would be sorely needed at the moment.

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