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Archive for December 30th, 2013

Shinjuku Outlaw dvd

Yomi is a yakuza henchman in Hiroshima. His boss is dying from cancer in hospital and the clan members are worried that his impending death will make their rivals move in on their territory. Yomi volunteers to kill the boss of a rival clan so that any idea they’ve got of trying to moving into their turf will be quashed. A plan is arranged that once the job is over Yomi will be picked up by the police should he survive. He tracks the rival boss to a bowling alley where he is having fun with his family which includes his young granddaughter. He manages to kill the boss but he isn’t so lucky in escaping and he is mown down in a hail of bullets by the boss’ bodyguards. He survives the ordeal but only just. He falls into a coma as he arrives at the prison hospital and wakes up 10 years later where many things have changed. His trusted friend Eto has moved to Tokyo and taken Yomi’s girlfriend Ayumi with him to run a Filipino prostitution ring. Eto has run himself into some debts and when Yomi comes to visit him he is kidnapped by those he owes money for. To the surprise of many people, Yomi decides he’d like to help Eto out. Everybody thought he’d kill Eto for stealing his girl. The Shinjuku yakuza hear about Yomi’s arrival in Tokyo and make him an offer that he simply can’t refuse by forcing him to work for them. In doing so, Yomi gets himself entangled in a situation which involves a corrupt cop and the Taiwanese mafia.

This is one of Takashi Miike’s earliest yakuza works and although this movie isn’t quite as extreme as what he would release later in his career, the viewer will quite clearly be able to see that some elements are beginning to come through (a yakuza is beaten up in the street by a Taiwanese mafia member who then urinates on his prone body before shooting his brains out!). If there’s one thing you can say about Miike’s yakuza movies they are entertaining as hell and so different to anybody else. Even a low budget yakuza movie such as this one by Miike is better than what many established directors can come up with in the genre. The plot is interesting about the Japanese yakuza having some issues with the Taiwanese mafia who are hoping to take over their rackets. The movie also has some quirky characters – a staple feature of Miike’s movies. The pairing of Yomi with a streetwise Filipino prostitute working for the Taiwanese mafia is a good one although there’s a twist in their relationship right near the end of the movie. You can see it coming a mile off that something is bound to happen between them.

Shinjuku Outlaw screenshot

If there’s one thing Miike doesn’t shy away from in his movies is in his depiction of violence against women. One scene features a young woman being battered in her apartment by a yakuza member. It’s a vicious prolonged assault which has the unfortunate woman being thrown down some stairs, getting her head smashed into a wooden door before it ends with her collapsing into a heap in her bathroom. It’s an uncomfortable scene to watch so be warned if you don’t like seeing violence against women. Was it necessary to have such a scene in the movie? Probably not as it doesn’t serve any purpose whatsoever but that’s Takashi Miike for you. He also ups the violence factor in the final third as the battle between the Japanese yakuza and the Taiwanese mafia spills out into the streets. The brutality of the Taiwanese gang members is there for all to see as the viewer witnesses a montage showing one member shooting one of the yakuza whilst dancing. You could only see something as bizarre as this in a Miike movie!

Hiroyuki Watanabe is great as the lead character Yomi. I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything before. He carries the role really well although all he has to do if I’m being honest is try to act tough but the same thing can be said about all of the cast members playing yakuza members. They’re not going to win any awards for their acting that’s for sure. Ruby Moreno is also solid as the Filipino actress playing the character of the prostitute that Yomi strikes up a relationship with.

Shinjuku Outlaws will never be one of Takashi Miike’s best movies but if you want to see the great man at the start of his career where he honed his skills as a storyteller and director, I’m sure this movie will more than satisfy anybody.

I’m sorry but there’s no trailer for this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Demon Spies (1974)

Demon Spies

A couple are travelling through the Japanese countryside when they are confronted by a group of children wearing masks. They are soon slayed and the viewer discovers the children have been recruited by a group to become demon spies. They are forced to wear masks and if that mask ever leaves their faces during training they are more or less executed instantly. The training is long and hard and takes 10 years. Not all of them survive the tough conditions set out by their masters. Only 5 of them survive and by now they’re adults which consists of 4 males and 1 female and they are ready to continue with the next part of their training. The next part of their training is in the art of sexual skills. Eventually the lone female has had enough of what she’s gone through and decides she no longer wants to be a demon spy. One male chases after her and after a short fight both of their masks comes off. They are captured and are ready to be executed when suddenly the 3 other recruits unmask themselves ready to free the other two until their teacher suddenly praises them all and says they are now fully fledged demon spies. They are sent on a mission to try and stop the Kushu clan who are planning on overthrowing the Shogunate. They have to infiltrate the clan and destroy the armoury before their plan can come to fruition. Will they succeed in their mission?

Based on a manga by Kazou Koike (who also created Lone Wolf & Cub/Lady Snowblood), this is a blood soaked exploitation action movie about a group of kids that are secretly trained to become demons in order to destroy any threat against the Shogunate. I’m not sure if the 16 selected kids right at the beginning are orphans or not but it’s quite uncomfortable seeing them attack and kill an innocent couple. The bizarre plot features a premise that these trained demons are supposed to kill anybody that threatens the peace of the country. They are forced to forsake their humanity and put on a traditional Japanese mask they have to wear on their faces at all times (punishment for taking the mask off whether intentionally or otherwise is death!) They are different from ninjas as what sets them apart is the masks they wear which is supposed to strike fear into their enemies. It’s pretty strong stuff in the first third for the viewer and sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The plot starts out as an ninja-like adventure but soon turns into a survival horror movie as the 5 are captured and tortured by the Kushu clan who want to know their plan.

DemonSpies screenshot

If you’ve seen movies based on the writer’s other works ,you’ll be familiar with the fact that major bloodletting is a common theme in all of them and this movie has gallons of the red stuff being sprayed about like there’s no tomorrow. Every cut from a blade results in a spray of blood being splattered everywhere with limbs even cut off.  Hell, in one gruesome scene the lead teacher kills himself as a graduation gift to his students by cutting off his own demon face with a sword! The action bloody as it is only comes in short spurts, this isn’t an all-out action extravaganza. In fact I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t as action packed as I hoped it would be.  It moves along at a good pace though so it never becomes boring. There’s a very disturbing scene early on in the movie during the training the 5 are having when they have to learn some sexual skills and the lone female is gang raped by the other 4 students on orders by their teacher. It was a rather unnecessary scene as this sexual training they’ve gone through isn’t even used in their mission.

Even though it’s enjoyable , I didn’t think it was half as good as say the Lone Wolf & Cub movies which was far more interesting, creative with a lot more carnage but I would think that anybody that has seen the Lone Wolf movies will like this one as well.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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