CANNES

A blood-soaked vengeance tale from Japan drew the biggest boos in the race for the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize Monday, with critics savaging a “risible” parade of cliches.

Controversial Japanese director Takashi Miike unveiled “Shield of Straw” (Wara No Tate) about a nationwide bounty hunt for a child rapist who murders the seven-year-old granddaughter of a billionaire politician.

The man offers a one-billion-yen ($9.7-million) reward for the criminal’s capture and killing. The offer touches off a frenzy in the country, sending hordes of would-be vigilantes on the chase for the murderer.

Fearing for his life, the paedophile turns himself in and a team of cops - a widower whose wife was killed by a drunk driver and a single mother - see it as their duty to protect him at all costs despite his vile crimes. But they must fend off all manner of armed assailants - some driven by greed for the reward and others, crime victims themselves who feel let down by the system, by a desire for a delayed sense of justice. The picture, one of 20 vying for the Palme d’Or award, got off to a promising start with impromptu applause for a spectacular ambush scene executed with military precision.

But reviewers said the film went off the rails during a bullet-train scene in which the cops deliver long speeches about their personal motivations and reflections on the moral quandary they face over risking their lives to guard a remorseless killer, only pausing to brutally dispatch blood-thirsty bounty-hunters.