Takashi Miike is a director fast becoming a regular fixture at the Cannes Film Festival, despite his notorious work-rate of often several films a year and the frequently inconsistent level of quality that this doubtless invites. Miike stands as one of very few directors who would be able to land a populist – at least for the standards of the festival – action thriller In Competition. As such, Shield of Straw is a refreshing palate-cleanser amid the more stereotypical festival fare, and on its own standing, coheres as a sharp thriller even as it weathers its fair share of flaws. Following his murder of a 7-year-old girl, serial killer Kunihide Kyomaru (Tatsuya Fujiwara) has a billion-Yen bounty placed upon his head by the child’s grandfather, Ninagawa (Tsutomu Yamazaki), with the peculiar condition that the murder be state-authorised (a rather oblique term never properly explained). As the tension rises, Kyomaru hands himself in to the police, yet with even the authorities aiming their sights at the man, it comes down to five outnumbered, outgunned cops, led by Lieutenant Kazuki Mekari (Takao Osawa), to protect a man they ostensibly cannot stand. Few of Miike’s films are ever quite the same, and here in both style and tone he seems to be moving towards the very much in-vogue Christopher Nolan style of filmmaking; high budget, boasting an accomplished look, portentous musical score, and sweeping themes that avidly echo Greek tragedy (but unlike Nolan, it’s bloody).