Archive for August 20th, 2012

Set in 1969, Riichi is a 10 year old tough youngster who lives in a rough part of Osaka with his ever suffering mother, grandfather and his good for nothing father who abuses his mother constantly. When he comes home all day covered in bruises after clashing with his arch-enemy Sada and his gang, his grandfather throws a party to celebrate as he thinks Riichi has beaten Sada to a pulp. At school, his pretty teacher Miss Ito becomes concerned and decides to visit Riichi’s family to find out what’s going on. Although his grandfather is smitten with Miss Ito, his father starts hitting his wife and Miss Ito in his drunken state. Miss Ito and Riichi becomes good friends and he even begins to fall for her. He’s obviously jealous when he finds out that she has a boyfriend. With the imminent landing on the Moon by Apollo 11, Riichi and his friends start building a replica model of the Lunar Module to win a prize. All seems to be going well until Sada and his gang destroy his pride and joy. Riichi’s seething anger at this destruction will see Sada being punished to within an inch of his life….

This is apparently Takashi Miike’s favourite movie. I’ve no idea why? It could be that it reminds him of his own childhood perhaps? This is the prequel to Young Thugs: Innocent Blood and it sees the characters in that movie as children rather than adults. If you’re primarily looking for some of Miike’s hyper-violent, ultra-cool, and beyond-bizarre happenings in this movie you’ll only get them in very minor and subdued doses. It’s a great coming-of-age story full of the joys, heartbreak and wonder of childhood with some dollops of humour (witness Riichi’s grandfather punishing his own son for hitting Miss Ito by ramming a brush handle up his arse or Richii throwing up into his recorder during music class!!) interspersed with lightweight violent scenes. It’s certainly not as violent as Innocent Blood though we do see various scrapes between Riichi and his nemesis Sada. The storyline is very episodic with many different plots in which the movie jumps from one to the other but it all comes together nicely with a brilliant ending that sees Riichi becoming a man and kicking his dad’s arse (which is deserved by the way!) This isn’t the only change happening in his life by the end as his own neighbourhood is also changing rapidly and being industrialised. Miike’s directing is wonderful and he delivers this story without it being too overly sentimental. He seems to have captured the era at the back end of the 60’s pretty well.

Excellent acting by the child actors and they do a perfect job in trying to match the personality of the characters that we see in Innocent Blood. In fact the youngsters perform better than the adults! We see Riichi develop throughout the movie from an innocent and dare I saw weak character and transforming gradually into the tough leader that he’d become as an adult. I usually enjoy Naoto Takenaka’s acting but I really dislike his character so much in this movie. He’s just a loud and idiotic drunk who goes around shouting at people and treating his wife like dirt. No wonder she leaves home when he brings a stripper home with him one night. A revolting character indeed.

With a well written and compelling script, believable performances from the young cast and an awesome soundtrack, Takashi Miike hits the jackpot once more with this cool movie about childhood. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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