Archive for April 17th, 2012

Set in and around the small fishing town of Kishiwada, Osaka during the 70’s, four friends graduate from high school after causing trouble together for years. Their leader is Riichi, a bit of a tough guy who is always getting into fights. He is also Ryoko’s girlfriend, the only girl in the group. The other two boys are Kotetsu, who begins working at a restaurant of the local boss, and Yuji, who seems too nice to really fit in with the others. Their friendships continue after school until Riichi runs into an old flame and prostitute Nahomi. He quickly latches onto her, dumps Ryoko and causes rifts in his friendships that pull all four of them apart. Unfortunately, the expectations for Riichi are quite different in this new relationship—he is now expected to give up fighting and some of his other unsavoury activities. He is quickly seen as a soft target for the other thugs in the area who soon beat the crap out of him. Riichi realises that he has to dump Nahomi in order to find his place in life. As the three lads go on a road trip in Kotetsu’s car a tragedy befalls them.

You will notice after watching Innocent Blood that some of the more usual Miike characteristics are missing from this movie in that there’s no gangsters or psychopaths. Instead Takashi Miike deals with real people and problems that the viewer can relate to – that being friendships and romance. But don’t worry – this is still Miike after all and what we have in this movie is a mix of slapstick comedy, violent fights and a tragedy. The comedy is pretty amusing……that is if you find one of the characters vomiting over the face of another or Yuji crapping in his pants after a hair raising experience in a car to be funny! It also sees Miike going back to his roots as he’s originally from the Osaka region. This movie is a coming of age tale with 4 people finding out that there’s more to life than causing trouble and playing games. It’s time for them to grow up and take their place in society. The carefree life of being in school and the transition into adulthood is a difficult period for many and this story concentrates on that. The movie has been split in two: Winter and Summer. Winter deals with the disbanding of the four friends whilst Summer has the four dealing with each of their problems and moving on but fate has other plans in store for one of them.

Miike got on board some local Osaka talent for this movie with brothers Koji and Yasushi Chihara as Riichi and Yuji who are excellent. Sarina Suzuki is so beautiful as Ryoko and gives a great showing as the woman spurned in love by Riiichi. To be fair, all of the cast are great in portraying characters that are trying to find some kind of meaning to their lives. What is surprising is that there are no OTT performances at all in this movie. I’ve said it before but Takashi Miike can turn his hand to any genre he wants and come out with a good movie – who would have thought he could direct a movie that can be seen as more of a character study of 4 people. Yes, we may have become used to his more violent features that shocks the viewer but it’s good to know that he can make a straight forward movie in such a good and darkly comic way. Even the tragic part of the story near the climax is done in a typical Miike humourous slant! This may still be a rather tame movie by Miike standards but we still have very brutal and violent scenes with many baseball bat beatings on show!

Overall Young Thugs: Innocent Blood is an interesting change in pace from Miike and I did enjoy it immensely. The story is captivating and draws you in. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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