An unmitigated disaster virtually from beginning to end, Shoplifters follows a family of small-time crooks as they rescue an abused child from the streets and fold her into their less-than-savory operation. Filmmaker Hirokazu Koreeda has infused Shoplifters with precisely the sort of deliberate, slow-moving sensibility with which he’s become associated, and though it opens with a relatively promising opening stretch, the movie segues into a disastrously uneventful midsection that’s exacerbated by an almost uniform assortment of one-dimensional, underdeveloped characters (ie there’s ultimately nobody here to root for or sympathize with). The aggressively hands-off atmosphere is perpetuated by Koreeda’s uneventful (and annoyingly episodic) screenplay, as the writer/director delivers a plotless narrative that’s been suffused with one pointless, aggravatingly tedious sequence after another – which ensures that the comparatively frenetic third act, detailing the consequences of the aforemtnioned abused-child rescue, is hardly able to pack the sentimental and heartwrenching punch that Koreeda is obviously aiming for. It is, in the end, impossible not to wonder what Koreeda set out to accomplish with this meandering mess, as Shoplifters, by and large, comes off as a half-baked sketch of an idea that crawls along for the duration of its often interminable running time.
* out of ****