Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

The-After-Dinner-Mysteries-

Reiko Hosho is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and a rookie police detective who is assisted from the shadows by her butler Kageyama who is the picture of being a model servant in front of people but quite sharp in his tongue towards Reiko in private. Reiko and Kageyama board a cruise ship which is en- route to Singapore. It isn’t long before a body is seen falling into the sea and it’s discovered that the man in question has been murdered and had many enemies. Reiko’s boss Detective Kazamatsuri decides to solve the case as he is on the ship guarding a priceless artefact to it’s new home in Singapore. Reiko and Kageyama also decide to find out who the murderer is. Soon more bodies turn up but with 3000 people onboard the ship how can she narrow the suspects down. Are the murders linked to a master criminal named Phantom Soros? Reiko and Kageyama must capture the murderer before the ship lands at its destination.

This is the spinoff movie from the popular 2011 drama series by Fuji Television. It isn’t essential that you’ve seen the series to enjoy this movie as it’s a standalone story and there’s a handy introduction to the main players right at the start. It’s easy to see that the budget has been increased from the series for this movie with part of the filming taking place in Singapore and also on a real luxury cruise liner. All the regulars from the series return to reprise their roles.

After Dinner Mysteries screenshot

The movie mixes comedy, drama and suspense but it’s the comedic aspect that stands out the most. It tends to feel at times like an Agatha Christie mystery played out like a spoof and instead of concentrating on just Reiko and Kageyama trying to solve the murders, there are other sub-plots with other characters introduced such as a pair of bumbling thieves who plan to steal the artefact guarded by Detective Kazamatsuri. These subplots all come together in the thrilling climax. I can also see some aspects of Detective Conan in the movie too – Kageyama with his glasses looks like Conan and is superior in his sleuthing skills than anybody else, Reiko plays the Ran role while the arrogant Kazamatsuri who thinks he’s brilliant at being a detective is similar to Ran’s father Mouri. The gelling of slapstick comedy and detective drama works surprisingly well. As there are so many sub-plots taking place, there is a lot of information to take in for the viewer but not too much for anybody to become lost with the story. As with many Japanese mystery movies, there are several twists and red herrings to keep the viewer on their toes and the unveiling of the murderer will keep you guessing until the end which unfortunately is rather cliché ridden.

Keiko Kitagawa plays the wealthy heiress Reiko in a goofy kind of way. She’s taken on a similar type of role before such as the dorama Mop Girl so if you like seeing her pull funny faces and be a damsel in distress then you’ll enjoy her in this movie though I suspect some might find her character a bit annoying. Arashi member Sho Sakurai is Reiko’s foil as her faithful but sharp-tongued butler Kageyama who is never afraid to put Reiko in her place in private but in public has to put on his diligent servant persona. It makes for amusing viewing seeing the bickering that goes on between Reiko and Kageyama and it’s obvious that Keiko and Sho are enjoying themselves in their roles. Both of their characters are even taken out from the ship for a while as the murderer makes sure they are put in a lifeboat and sent overboard. They eventually land on a small island before they are rescued rather conveniently by the authorities. Of course it’s all rather far-fetched but do remember that the movie is never meant to be taken seriously. One of the most notable guest stars taking part in this movie is Naoto Takenaka as a thief. I didn’t really recognise him at first, it’s his voice that gave the game away.

All in all, this is a hugely entertaining murder mystery movie. It’s got drama, moments of danger, good comedy, a fine cast and an exciting story. Fans of the drama series will have a fun time reuniting with characters they love but even those not familiar with the drama like myself can still enjoy this movie. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

ptu -police-tactical-unit-poster

Cocky rotund HK detective Lo who has been eyeing up a group of triads whilst eating at a restaurant loses his gun when the triads beat him up after he slips on a banana in a dark alley after one of them scrapes a key against his car. A special police team called the PTU (Police Tactical Unit) led by a man named Mike who slightly bends the rules in order to solve cases finds Lo and immediately asks his team to help find the firearm before dawn but they do not tell their superiors as Lo fears that if they found out it could have serious consequences for him so they keep everything hush-hush between them. Unfortunately the situation is more complicated being that the triad leader Ponytail who ordered his underlings to beat up Lo has been murdered with a knife stuck in his back. Having tried to get to hospital by driving, he’s managed to pass out and crash the car. A rival triad gang leader is named the suspect but he denies everything. However, Ponytail’s father wants revenge for his son’s death and with Lo’s missing gun sets out to make sure that somebody pays the price. Then a separate CID team led by a female inspector begin investigating Ponytail’s murder and find that Lo is somehow involved. Will the PTU team manage to find the gun before Ponytail’s father kills somebody?

This is yet another brilliant stylish movie by HK director Johnnie To who has directed many classics over the years. It’s probably his shortest movie at just 85 mins long with the story taking place during one night somewhere in Hong Kong. Unlike his other crime thrillers which has many shootouts/action scenes with the storylines having a fast pace about them, this movie is rather slow with only 1 major bloody shootout near the climax which may disappoint some fans. You’d normally associate the city of Hong Kong as being a bustling metropolis but in this story the viewer doesn’t see that many people. The streets are nearly deserted with only one or two people walking about in the background and just as many cars driving around. The storyline has several plot threads such as the police trying to apprehend a suspect who has been smashing car windows. The actual culprit is none other than a suspicious looking kid riding around the empty streets on his bicycle. The director is adept at weaving these strands until they all come together in the finale in which lives are lost and heroics come from an unlikely source. There is also good use of light and shadow to show the dark underbelly of Hong Kong. The cinematography is fantastic and the only bad thing I can say about this movie is the awful soundtrack which is frankly terrible.

ptu screenshot

The cast of the movie is headed by the great Simon Lam, an actor I’ve admired for many years. He plays the leader of the PTU unit Mike who uses questionable tactics to help him in finding Detective Lo’s gun. The scene at an arcade parlour in which he continuously slaps a punk across the face is chilling as the viewer sees the tough guy being reduced to a quivering wreck. Mike’s dubious efforts in seeking Lo’s gun isn’t helped by the fact that he’s got a rookie in the team and that he and Lo are under suspicion by the CID team. Suet Lam also gives a brilliant performance as the comical and incompetent detective Lo who has one of the worst nights in his career. Not only does he lose his gun, he also sees his car being daubed with yellow paint and he makes an idiot of himself by slipping on a banana not once but twice! His actions this night inflame an already tense situation between two triad gangs which threatens to break out into an all-out war.

If you’re new to Johnnie To’s movies this is a good movie to start off with though it’s not his best. It might even make you want to check out more of his movies. A good solid effort from him.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

One nite in mongkok

A gang member is killed by a rival during a high speed chase in a car near Mongkok, an area of Hong Kong. A gang war is threatening to break out as the two brothers in charge of the gangs retaliate against each other. One of them hires an assassin to take out his brother. The assassin is an inexperienced young man named Lai Fu. Detective Milo and his team set out to capture Lai Fu before he does the hit by arresting the go-between Liu and his wife in order to get some information about the assassin. In order to save his own skin, Liu gives the location where Lai Fu is staying. However, Lai Fu is cleverer than that and manages to escape before the cops turn up. After saving Dan Dan, a prostitute from being beaten up by her pimp, she offers to be his tour guide in Mongkok for money. Lai Fu isn’t in Mongkok just to do a job as an assassin, he also wants to find his girlfriend Sue. Milo orders the police to tear down every bar, club and massage parlour in order to capture Lai Fu but he and Dan Dan once again are successful in evading them. However, the net is closing on the pair. Will the police eventually manage to arrest Lai Fu or will he be able to escape yet again?

This fantastic award-winning crime drama directed by the great Derek Yee is set in Mongkok, the most densely populated area on the planet. It’s a vibrant place full of shops and bars but a couple of unsavoury incidents did take place there between 2008-10 when plastic bottles full of corrosive liquid were hurled on shoppers from tall buildings. The story does not take place during one night but over several days and deals with people working in the seedier side of life such as pimps, assassins, prostitutes and triad gang members. It’s not your typical assassin movie. The main characters in the movie are Lai Fu and Dan Dan whose meeting starts off a chain of events that will end in tragedy. All of the characters that the viewer is introduced have their fates intertwined with each other. There’s a grittiness attached to the plot which director Yee exploits to the full. He also shows the viewer how beautiful Mongkok looks at night with all its neon lights. It succeeds in displaying a part of Hong Kong you might not be familiar with and the dark underbelly that exists there. The camerawork used by Yee is fantastic. As well as our two main characters, a lot of focus is on the police team under Detective Milo who are pissed off at having to work during Christmas Eve when the majority want to go home to their families.  A naïve rookie joins their ranks and unexpectedly manages to get himself into a lot of trouble during a raid on an apartment to capture Lai Fu in which he kills an unarmed man. Milo went through a similar experience when he was younger and it has haunted him since. However, lady luck is on the police’s side and the team manage to come away with their noses clean after finding some drugs in the dead man’s place. It’s interesting to see the prickly relationship between the veteran Milo and the eager and cocky new recruit. During the second half of the movie things get really tense as the net closes on Lai Fu with Milo relentlessly pursuing all avenues to get his man. Don’t expect to see a happy ending (not that I thought that was going to happen anyway) as the plot goes dark and events get bloody and brutal.

one nite in mongkok 2004

Daniel Wu and Cecilia Cheung are excellent in their roles as Lai Fu and Dan Dan and have great chemistry together. It’s good that Yee doesn’t go down the route of having the pair fall in love. There are hints that perhaps they do like each other but it never goes any further than that. Both characters share a common bond having come from the same area of China and being from poor families. I’ve never been a fan of Daniel Wu in the past. I think his acting skills are rather limited but he does a good job here as the shy and inexperienced assassin. It might be the best performance I’ve seen from him. Lai Fu is not what you would call a typical cold-hearted killer either and the viewer will feel some sympathy towards him. It’s heartbreaking to watch when he finds out that his girlfriend Sue may be a prostitute even though he is adamant she isn’t and when he discovers her face in a local paper and that she’s been involved in a car accident (she was a passenger in the car during the high speed chase at the beginning of the movie and has been badly burned after the car caught fire). Lai Fu might look weedy to some but he can take care of himself and proves to be handy with his fists even though he does get beaten up very badly near the climax. Lai Fu’s face is a mask of crimson after Dan Dan’s boss extracts revenge on him by smashing his head repeatedly on a brass door handle. I really liked how Yee linked the tragic events at the climax involving Lai Fu with the life ebbing away from the badly burned Sue at hospital.

A big part of why I wanted to watch this movie was because of the lovely Cecilia Cheung. She was amazing in the movie Failan and she pulls off another great performance here. Although her character of Dan Dan might seem on the surface to be a likeable woman, she is not averse to stealing money from Lai Fu’s rucksack after he takes off after a man who steals her bag. Lai Fu does find his money in her bag but does nothing about it and lets her keep it. Some people might say that Cheung’s prostitute is just too beautiful but I’m not complaining. I’ve read that her voice has been dubbed over as she couldn’t speak Mandarin properly. Alex Fong is also superb as Milo who’s a worthwhile adversary for Lai Fu with the rest of the supporting cast performing well.

One Nite In Mongkok is a very well made movie with an engaging and thrilling plot, well drawn out characters and it has tons of atmosphere. I found it to be extremely entertaining and would recommend it to HK movie fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

no-mercy-for-the-rude-dvd

Killa is a mute assassin who was born with a short tongue and is saving all the money he earns from killing to have surgery to correct his tongue which will cost $100,000. Killa loves seafood and watching bullfighting on the TV. He dreams of being a famous matador even though there are no bulls in South Korea. As he was a chef before, he prefers to use knives when he kills and only murders those who he sees as being rude. Killa is getting closer to reaching his target for his surgery but his life is about to change. In a bar that he frequents, a women starts to become attached to him and he also takes in a young street urchin. Things are to become even more complicated when he botches up on one job and some gangsters come looking for him. It puts himself and his new surrogate family in big trouble.

This is a dark South Korean comedy which surprised me in how good it really was. It’s written extremely well and directed competently by Cheol –hie Park. Even though he’s a mute, Killa provides narration throughout the movie which has got a wry sarcastic edge to it. It’s got a nice balance between comedy and action though some of the violence is very graphic and bloody. All of the characters are fleshed out well explaining their motivations through back stories. It seems that Killa is a part of a group of assassins that meet regularly for food and drink from his best friend, a former ballet dancer who turned to killing after his career was cut short through injury and a martial arts instructor who couldn’t make ends meet. They might not look as cool as Killa in his black attire and shades but they’re certainly not buffoons when it comes to killing either. The interaction between this league of assassins is funny to watch and they’re all likeable characters.

No-Mercy-for-the-Rude screenshot

The movie starts out as more of a comedy but gradually more dramatic elements are thrown into the plot which provides suspense but even then it still maintains a black comedic edge to proceedings. The peril that befalls Killa and his new makeshift family as they fall foul of some gangsters thanks to a job that goes wrong due to mistaken identity makes for interesting viewing. It’s all the more gripping to watch as we’ve started to care for Killa and it inevitably leads to a melodramatic and tragic conclusion. The title of the movie is straight forward enough as it’s Killa’s motto and he only offs those that deserves it. Maybe that’s how he justifies himself being an assassin in that no innocent people are targeted and only the bad guys are killed.

I already knew that Ha-Kyun Shin was a great actor having seen him in Save The Green Planet and he pulls off another great performance in this movie. He manages to strike a fine balance between being silly and serious. Coincidentally he also played a mute character in Sympathy For Mr Vengeance. Yun Ji-hie is the aggressive woman at the bar who forces herself in Killa’s life. There’s a good twist right at the end of the movie when it is shown that both Killa and the woman had a link in the past when they were both growing up.

All in all, an impressive movie. There has been numerous movies with mute assassins over the years but I thought that that this one stood out from the rest. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Here we go with last month’s movies that I checked out. Those that I’ve reviewed will not be in this list:

Kamen_Rider_W_Forever_A_to_Z_The_Gaia_Memories_of_Fate

Kamen Rider W Forever: A To Z/The Gaia Memories of Fate
3 stars out of 5

The Isle 2000
The Isle
3.5 stars out of 5

Satan Returns 1996
Satan Returns
2.5 stars out of 5

Ah My Goddess movie
Ah! My Goddess! The Movie
3.5 stars out of 5

BladeOfFuryCover
Blade Of Fury
2.5 stars out of 5

Riding Bean
Riding Bean
3 stars out of 5

Utsushimi
Utsushimi
3 stars out of 5

Boukenger vs Super Sentai
GoGo Sentai Boukenger Vs Super Sentai
3 stars out of 5

CopsVsThugs_DVD
Cops vs Thugs
3 stars out of 5

kamen_rider_agito_project_g4
Kamen Rider Agito: Project G4
3 stars out of 5

hunter-x-hunter-phantom-rouge
Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge
3 stars out of 5

Sailor Moon S The Movie
Sailor Moon S The Movie: Hearts In Ice
3.5 stars out of 5

Stone Age Warriors
Stone Age Warriors
3 stars out of 5

intoadream
Into A Dream
3 stars out of 5

Hot For Teacher
Hot For Teacher
4 stars out of 5

Street Mobster
Street Mobster
4 stars out of 5

Wolf Children
Wolf Children
4 stars out of 5

Megalopolis Expressway Trial
Megalopolis Expressway Trial
3.5 stars out of 5

pleasure-kill-poster
Pleasure Kill
3 stars out of 5

Labyrinth of Dreams
Labyrinth Of Dreams
3 stars out of 5

Sixty-Million-Dollar-Man
Sixty Million Dollar Man
4 stars out of 5

redpeonygambler
Red Peony Gambler
3 stars out of 5

About Her Brother
About Her Brother
3.5 stars out of 5

Eros High School
Eros High School: Feels So Good
2.5 stars out of 5

samuraisentaishinkenger
Samurai Sentai Shinkenger vs. Go-onger: GinmakuBang!!
3 stars out of 5

Charisma
Charisma
3.5 stars out of 5

girl-boss-crazy-ball-game
Girl Boss: Crazy Ball Game
3.5 stars out of 5

origin_-_spirits_of_the_past
Origin: Spirits Of The Past
2.5 stars out of 5

Girl-Boss-Blues-Queen-Bee_s-Counterattack
Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack
3.5 stars out of 5

mardock-scramble-the-first-compression
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
3.5 stars out of 5

Mardock Scramble Second Combustion
Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion
2.5 stars out of 5

alone_across_the_pacific_masters_of_cinema_series_uk_dvd
Alone Across The Pacific
3.5 stars out of 5

late-chrysanthemums-movie-poster-1954-1020233480
Late Chrysanthemums
2.5 stars out of 5

Planzet
Planzet
3 stars out of 5

Guzoo
Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken by God – Part I
3 stars out of 5

angel-s-egg-mystical-egg-of-the-angels-1985
Angel’s Egg
2 stars out of 5

Raise The Red Lantern
Raise The Red Lantern
4.5 stars out of 5

red-spell
Red Spell Spells Red
3 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Die Bad (2000)

Die-Bad-2000

Park Sung-bin is a part of a teenage gang. At a pool hall an argument breaks out between his gang and another from an art school which turns into a full scale fight. It results in him grabbing a bottle and smashing it over one boy’s head. As the boy falls to the floor, his bloodstained head hits a pool table very hard. He is dead on hitting the floor. Sung-bin is sent to jail. 7 years later he is released and a plain clothes policeman is charged with keeping an eye out for him in case he reoffends. His father isn’t proud of him due to the social stigma of having an ex-con as a member of the family. He manages to get a job though in a local garage thanks to his older brother but he starts getting visions of the boy he killed all those years ago. As he is walking home one night he sees a man being attacked by 4 thugs. Sung-bin is hesitant at first to assist as he doesn’t want to get into trouble with the law but in the end he does. The man he has saved Kim Tae-hoon is a gangster and he takes Sung-bin under his wing and back into the world of crime. As time goes by, Sung-bin is unaware that a gang of youths he’s recruited are about to be used by his boss as knife-fodder in a horrific battle and he’ll come face to face in a showdown with a police officer who he will recognise as an old friend who was involved in the fateful fight at the pool hall all those years ago.

South Koreans like their gangster movies a lot. They usually make pots of money at the box office. It makes you wonder just why they find these types of movies so fascinating. Is it something to do with the romantic image that gangsters have in the country I wonder? This is one of the better efforts from South Korea and it is stylishly directed by Ryu Sung-Wan (on his debut) who made this movie on a shoestring budget and employed friends and family in the production. The story is broken down into 4 parts:

Rumble – two school male gangs start fighting each other at a pool hall which leads to Sung-bin killing somebody.

Nightmare – this segment fast forwards 7 years on as Sung-bin is released from prison and his descent into crime after rescuing a crime boss from a beating.

Modern Man – the viewer is introduced to Suk-Hwan, an old friend of Sung-bin who is now a police officer. He is staking out Sung-bin’s boss. This segment is interspersed with Suk-Hwan talking to the camera as if he’s being interviewed.

Die Bad – Sung-bin’s teenage gang is involved in a brutal fight unaware that they are being used and two former friends in Sung-bin and Suk-Hwan face off in a showdown.

Die Bad screenshot

As per usual in Korean gangster movies, this is a gritty and very violent movie. We’re talking proper brutal stuff on display. It’s lucky that the final segment which is a short film-noir is mostly in black and white as there is a lot of bloodshed and stabbings galore during the gang fight melee that takes place. It’s the different camera techniques that the director uses which makes this stand out from other Korean gangster movies. It has a washed out and grainy look about it. I loved how Ryu Sung-Wan has managed to piece together these 4 segments into one seamless story that takes place over a decade. It’s a well thought out story full of energy and great performances from the cast and what may surprise you is no guns are used at all. When you think of gangsters you think of people with guns but not in this movie. Lead pipes and knives seem to be the favoured weapons in this movie. The fights are realistic. They might not be pretty to watch but that’s how fights are in real life. The director makes it clear to not glorify the violence that’s seen during the movie. It’s a dark story highlighting the grimier side of Seoul and with characters that don’t have many options in life but follow a life of crime.

Die Bad provides a refreshing new look on the gangster genre. It’s a great showcase for highlighting the innovative ways that the director has used to convey the story.  Ryu Sung-Wan would go on to direct such great movies as Arahan, City of Violence and Crying First (all 3 are well worth watching btw).  This movie was a fantastic debut from a promising director at the time.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Kamikaze Taxi DVD

Tatsuo is a young yakuza footsoldier who is given the task by his boss of finding young attractive prostitutes for an elderly corrupt Japanese senator by the name of Domon. Domon is rather a violent man though with these women and the majority are returned bleeding or battered black and blue. When Tatsuo’s girlfriend protests to his boss about the rough treatment the women are getting she is unceremoniously beaten to death by him in front of Tatsuo’s eyes and he cannot do a thing about it. He swears revenge on Domon and together with 5 of his fellow yakuza lackeys plan a heist to steal 2 million yen from Domon’s house in a daring night-time raid. Whilst the raid comes off as planned and the group escape to a small retreat in the country, it doesn’t take long before Tatsuo’s boss and his associates find the group. Only Tatsuo manages to escape with the loot, the others are murdered. Tatsuo decides with the money to go back home to Izo to buy a new gravestone for his mother and he hires a taxi from Tokyo to take him there. It would be easy for Tatsuo who has a gun to force the quietly spoken taxi driver named Kantake, a Peruvian-Japanese who has come back to the country to look for work to take him to his destination but he decides not to do that. Tatsuo’s boss has eyes and ears everywhere and soon he is tracked down. Following a violent confrontation in which he escapes once more and with the taxi driver finding out about Tatsuo’s links to the yakuza, he teams up with him in his quest to destroy Domon. Will Tatsuo be successful in even getting close to Domon in order to murder him or will his boss’ cronies find him first?

At first glance Kamikaze Taxi might seem like any other yakuza movie you may have seen before but it’s not as embedded into the storyline is a commentary about Japanese xenophobia, the delicate subject about kamikaze pilots used during WWII and also comfort women. Director Masato Harada is openly critical of the discrimination that lies hidden within Japanese society and of the country’s aggressive stance during WWII. The entertaining action scenes and interesting characters combined with tackling the social issues stated make for a very good movie so don’t come to watch this expecting a straight-forward crime drama. The issue of Japanese-born immigrants who are treated as outsiders when they return back home is something the movie spends a lot of time focusing on and this is because of one of the main characters Kantake, the taxi driver who’s been made an outcast not by choice. His developing relationship with Tatsuo is made all the more fascinating during the various conversations the viewer witnesses between the two during the movie. Both characters have a connection with kamikaze pilots. I won’t reveal Kantake’s revelation in a pivotal scene near the end but Tatsuo who could keep running for the rest of his life decides to stop hiding, return to Tokyo and fight back against his employers. To him it feels like a suicide mission the kamikaze undertook that will end with his death. To many viewers of this movie it might come as a bit of a surprise how many cultural issues are hidden under the surface in Japanese society. The thorny subject of comfort women (women who were basically used as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in occupied countries) is something the Japanese government has tried to sweep under the carpet for many years, even going so far to deny there ever were such women. This has angered Japan’s neighbours in China and South Korea who have asked for an apology on many occasions but have yet to receive one. It is rare for such a controversial issue to be discussed in a movie which is why I like this one very much with a director not afraid to criticise his own country for past crimes. I also like the way he takes his time to develop and explore the various characters in the story and adding some depth to them plus how he has managed to create a part yakuza part road trip movie.

Koji Yakusho is excellent as the quietly spoken Kantake who speaks with broken Japanese. On the surface he looks like a gentle person who enjoys talking about Peruvian culture with Tatsuo but towards the climax we see a different side to him. A person who is not afraid of using violence. Kazuya Takahashi is also brilliant as the young yakuza Tatsuo. Reiko Kataoka is also added to the mix as the prostitute Tama, another woman who has been on the receiving end of Domon’s violence. She joins Kantake and Tatsuo on their journey in the second half of the movie. An unlikely trio as ever you’ll see to take on the might of a yakuza family.

Despite the long running time (2 and half hours) which might put off some people, never once did I feel this movie drag. It kept my interest from start to finish. It’s an exceptional and engaging movie from a talented director. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Outrage_Beyond

The story is set a couple of years after the events of Outrage. Otomo is in prison for his actions and his enemy Kato sits nicely on top of the Sanno yakuza empire after betraying his former boss.  Helping Kato out as his no.2 is Ishihara, a traitor who betrayed Otomo. Dissension starts to occur within the Sanno family with some members unhappy that Ishihara is leading them on a path that they aren’t familiar with (politics) and all the while pushing the old guard out of the picture. Into the mix comes a police inspector Kataoka who hears of the troubles inside Sanno and due to the non-cooperation from Kato he plans to destroy them. His first action is to release Otomo early from his prison sentence to stir things up as he has a score to settle with Kato and  Ishihara and then have him form an alliance with the Hanibishi family.  Otomo’s release from prison makes the upper echelons of the Sanno family very nervous and they make plans to eliminate him. The conniving inspector Kataoko also encourages the disgruntled Sanno members to ask for help from the Hanibishi as well. Otomo also reunites with his old gun man Kimura who has a nasty knife scar running across his face. Although they had a violent altercation in Outrage, Otomo forgives him. With the battle lines drawn between the Sanno and Hanibashi families and with Otomo in the middle of all the chaos, it all boils down to an explosive confrontation!

This was another movie that I had hoped to have watched in the cinema when I visited Japan during November/December 2012 but as this movie was released in early October it had come to the end of its theatrical run by early December. As a sequel I did think it had a stronger storyline than the first. Kitano has confirmed that studio bosses have asked him to make a third movie so you can bet your bottom dollar that another sequel to wrap up all the loose ends will be made.  Expect an announcement from Kitano in the future.

Outrage-Beyond-Screenshot
Kitano is an expert on how to weave a well thought out yakuza movie although I did have my reservations at first with this movie. It starts out slow and it’s only until Kitano’s character Otomo appears that the storyline really gets into high gear. You can understand why Otomo wants revenge for all the misfortune that has befallen him. It’s surprising that Otomo is even alive because I thought he had perished at the end of Outrage. I liked the fact that in this movie we have a third party in the police inspector Karaoka who is playing the puppet master in the background and setting things in motion for a showdown between the two yakuza families. As for the violence aspect of the movie I would say it’s a little bit tamer than the first. There’s some stabbings and certainly more gun violence involved and a scene which may put viewers off is one in which Kimura bites one of his fingers off to appease the Hanibishi clan who really wanted Otomo to cut off one of his fingers. Another brutal scene finds a yakuza member strapped to a chair at a baseball bat cage facility with the balls being fired point blank at his face. Kitano is adept at showing some stylish violence. The only problem I found with many yakuza movies such as this is there’s too many characters. It is to be expected from this kind of movie that some of them will not make it to the end credits. The pace of the movie is perfect with the storyline building up very nicely to its conclusion. I did not expect the twist in the final scene. Takeshi Kitano gives a very assured performance as Otomo backed up by a great cast who play the other yakuza members.

Overall, Outrage Beyond is a worthy sequel which carries on the storyline from the first movie. It should satisfy those that love modern yakuza movies and fans of Kitano’s previous works. Now all we can do is wait for the final part of the trilogy to arrive.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Memories-of-Murder-dvd

1986 Gyunggi Province. The body of a young woman is found brutally raped and murdered. Two months later, a series of rapes and murders commences under similar circumstances. And in a country that had never known such crimes, the dark whispers about a serial murderer grow louder. A special task force is set up in the area, with two local detectives Park Doo-Man and Jo Young-Goo joined by a detective from Seoul who requested to be assigned to the case, Seo Tae-Yoon. Park personifies the policeman who goes with his instincts and his fists, bloodily challenging every small-time crook in the area to confess. In contrast, Seo pores over evidentiary documents related to the case and inevitably the clash of styles leads to tense rivalry. From the fact that not a single hair is ever found at the scene, Park takes off to search the area’s temples and public baths for men with pubic hair disease, while Seo finds a pattern in the evidence of women wearing red on a rainy day as the victim’s profile. On a rainy day, the detectives set up a trap in order to forestall another murder. The next day however, yet another woman is found murdered. The solution to the murders grows fainter and drives the detectives to ever greater despair.

I will go on record here to say this is probably the finest Korean movie I’ve ever seen. It’s a masterpiece. Powerful, gutwrenching, even humorous at times with a taut script, this movie about South Korea’s first ever serial killer is one that nobody will ever forget after watching it. It’s also based on a true story in which 3000 suspects were questioned and 1.8 million cops were involved according to the prologue. Despite the police’s best efforts, the killer was never found and is still at large in South Korea. It seemed the killer was calculated, meticulous and always one step ahead of the police in everything he did. The story begins in 1986 with the discovery of a woman’s body with her hands tied in a drainage culvert, this sets off a chain of events in which more victims turn up. Each victim has been strangled by their own stockings. The two local detectives on the case including their chief are clearly seen to be completely out of their depth. They also don’t seem to have a clue as to how to keep a crime scene clean until the forensic team arrive with kids and even tractors trampling over vital evidence. Enter Detective Seo Tae-Yun from Seoul who provides a different approach to the case. Instead of using brutality to coerce a confession out of suspects, he uses a more rational way of trying to find the killer. It’s inevitable that he and the local detectives clash. But even with Seo Tae-Yun on board with some clues being found, it becomes apparent that the police force is becoming desperate to nail this sadistic killer. Pinning their hopes on a man with smooth hands after a confession from a female victim who wasn’t killed and the fact that he sent a request for a song ‘Sad Letter’ to be played on the radio on every night a woman is killed, the 3 detectives begin to investigate him. With some evidence sent to the US for verification because South Korea didn’t have DNA testing at the time, they hope that it will prove without a shadow of a doubt that this is their man.

memories-of-murder screenshot

The story is so engrossing and compelling. It sucks you right into the investigation and you definitely feel the frustration of the detectives building up as more bodies turn up. It might not have the Hollywood theatrics of Se7en or The Silence Of The Lambs but don’t believe for a second that this movie is inferior to them in any way shape or form. The movie also gives a good history lesson about the state of South Korea during the mid 80’s when it was still under a military dictatorship with martial law being declared at night with an air-raid siren going off, social unrest happening on the streets and schools participating in an emergency rehearsal in case of an attack by the North. Director Bong Joon-ho has crafted a fantastic suspensful thriller with beautiful haunting cinematography and an amazing soundtrackwhich keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the 2 hours or so running time. If I had to pick out highlights from the movie it would come down to the fantastic chase scene during the night and a brilliant free-for-all brawl at a restaurant as tensions boil over from one of the detectives who has been suspended due to overuse of violence on a suspect. Don’t expect to find a happy ending to the story though there is an intriguing final scene at the location of the first murder.

The acting from Song Kang-ho, Kim Roe-ha and Kim Sang-kyung as the detectives on the case is excellent and it’s sad to see them fail in their task to being the killer to task despite giving their all to the case day after day. It’s interesting to see how the relationship between the 2 country detectives and the city detective develop as the story progresses. Initially there is a rivalry between them due to their differing styles of investigating – the country pair are either lazy or plain stupid as they blatantly frame suspects and play the good cop/bad cop routine in order to get a confession but all three men become bound together by frustration as each clue they find brings them no closer to catching the real suspect.

Memories Of Murder is an unmissable movie. It’s an exceptional movie in all aspects and I have no hesitation in highly recommending it.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Hard Romanticker

Gu is a hard-nosed Korean-Japanese hoodlum living in Shimonoseki, Japan. When friends “accidentally” kill the grandmother of a ruthless North Korean-Japanese thug, a whirlwind of violence and revenge is set to explode. In the process, Gu, having no fear, pisses off a string of other criminal gang members and Korean-Japanese thugs who all want him dead. There’s also Detective Fujita lingering in the shadows looking for Gu, but where is he? To escape from it all Gu lucks his way into a managerial job in another city for a hostess club, run by a suave man named Takagi. Instincts tells Gu that Takagi is more than he seems. In fact, Takagi works for a rival gang and may be involved with drugs. Gu’s grandmother drops by to inform him that his best friend has been killed. This persuades Gu to return to Shimonoseki to settle the score. All hell is about to break loose.

This movie takes a very violent look at the criminal underworld involving the Zainichi (Korean-Japanese). Those who enjoyed the “Crows Zero” movies which involved a lot of male testosterone gang violence will want to take a look at this movie though unlike those movies this one doesn’t have any sympathetic characters (apart from Gu’s grandmother) portrayed in it at all. The story is based on the experiences of the director Gu Su Yeon when he was younger. It is set in Shimonoseki, a city where there is a high percentage of ethnic Koreans live in Japan. Koreans living in Japan aren’t looked at favourably by the Japanese people and to say that life isn’t easy for them is quite an understatement. The plot focuses on a cocky and charismatic young man who’s quite an unpleasant and vicious character (same goes for the majority of characters in this movie). He goes around upsetting nearly everybody with his devil may care attitude which naturally makes him a lot of enemies. He’s not averse to even beating up his superiors with a motorcycle helmet when two of them attempt to rape a young woman in their apartment. That might make him seen like a champion of women of sort to some viewers but later we see again just what a nasty piece of work he really is. Gu is seen trying to date a high school girl named Mieko Nakamura who catches his eye but when he finds out that she has been having sex with his friend his payback is brutally raping her in a park. The treatment of women in this movie is rather appalling and they are seen as merely sex objects to be treated badly by the men. It’s only a matter of time before Gu is going to be subjected to his own brand of medicine so when he picks on North Korean gang leader Park and his 3 cronies in a cafe with a metal bar who he thinks has murdered his close friend, the beating Gu receives is more than deserved. If it’s spectacular street violence you want and see, it’s got it in droves here with a lot of people being beaten up, murdered and even stabbed. The fights are choreographed well and even looks real. Even with all the violence going on in this movie there is some dark humour peppered throughout and a cool funky jazz soundtrack. Movie fans who are familiar with Japanese 70’s crime movies such as the Battles Without Honor series will see that this one has got that feel to it. I’m not sure if this was the director’s own way of paying tribute to those kind of movies?

Hard Romanticker screenshot

Shota Matsuda who is best known in the past couple of years from the drama Liar Game gives a terrific performance as the badboy Gu. He plays a character so different from Akiyama here. Matsuda has some Korean blood from his late father’s side who was half-Korean and acted in some violent movies during the 70’s so I’m sure he watched a couple of his father’s work to draw inspiration for his own role. The character of Gu is quite amusing in the way he swaggers around town like he owns the place, slapping some of the other thugs across the head and just doing whatever he wants whenever he wants regardless of the consequences he might face in the future.

Due to the violence on display and the harsh treatment the women receive, Hard Romanticker certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste but if you like these kind of fast paced rough and tumble movies you should find it very enjoyable.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Detective-Story

The opening scene sees an artist painting a large picture but this is no ordinary artist. This artist’ fingers is caked in blood and is using blended body parts to use on his canvas to create a masterpiece. Raita Takashima is a salaryman who works for an IT company. He moves next door to a man that’s also called Raita which both men find amusing. Raita Kazama is a slovenly private detective with his own small company which employs 2 people. Kazama tries to get to know his neighbour a little better one night when he invites himself to Takashima’s apartment for some drinks. In the early hours of the morning there’s a knock on Kazama’s apartment. It’s a young woman named Manami Inoue who’s in need of some help from Kazama. As it’s late he tells Manami to drop by his office later on in the day but Manami never turns up as she’s murdered on her way home. It’s discovered that one of her livers is missing. The police find it a bit too coincidental that Kazami has a liver in his apartment that he says he bought at a butcher’s shop. Soon after a second victim is found hanging from a tree with her kidneys missing. The police find a pen near the crime scene and the fingerprints on the pen belong to Kazama. He is immediately made the prime suspect so Kazama has to go into hiding and stays at his friends studio whilst making some investigations on his own. Meanwhile his next door neighbour Takashima has struck up a friendship with Kazama’s female assistant Mika. A date to a gallery of her favourite artist Yuki Aoyoma turns sour when Mika discovers another victim in one of the toilet cubicles at the place. The woman in question has had her lungs removed and her mouth is full of soil. A cigarette lighter is discovered in the toilet which is traced to belong to Raita Kazama. The police place Kazama on the wanted list for murder. Kazama asks Takashima to help him out as he knows he hasn’t killed the victims but who is setting him up? As Kazama delves deeper into the mystery, will he be able to find the killer before the police arrest him?

It’s hard to know what Takashi Miike was trying to do with this movie as it’s a mishmash of genres – gory horror, comedy and a whodunnit drama. I didn’t know whether to take it serious or not because there are some very funny scenes throughout the movie. Whilst the plotline might sound like your typical crime drama, you should know by now that with Takashi Miike at the helm of a movie it’s never going to be as straightforward as it seems. It’s a wild ride from the start. The movie has a good plot and there’s plenty of gore to satisfy horror fans but strangely enough some of the scenes in which the bloody victims’ corpses are shown there’s a blurring effect on the part of the bodies in which their organs is missing which I thought was odd. No idea if Miike did this on purpose as he hasn’t shied away from showing the viewer some disgusting horror shots in the past? He nabs an idea from The Silence Of The Lambs when Kazama visits a psycho killer who he helped to arrest 15 years earlier when he was a cop. The psycho who is strapped to a chair in a straight jacket with a mask on his face tells Kazama to place himself in the mind of the killer. Only then will he able to join the pieces of the puzzle together and solve the crime. There’s also some random weird stuff going on in this movie such as Takashima spacing himself out when he stares at Kazama’s assistant Mika’s legs constantly or Mika wetting herself in Aoyoma’s gallery as she can’t hold it in who then proceeds to build a make-shift clothes line in the toilet in which she can hang her underwear to dry after washing! What’s even more odd is a scene at an onsen in which a nude young boy is seem coming into frame twice for no reason whatsoever. But even that is nothing to what happens near the climax which is so surreal and bizarre you just have to laugh at the absurdness of it all. The final scene will either have you be scratching your head and saying ‘WTF was that all about?’ or laughing at the ingenious talent of Takashi Miike and the crazy ideas he comes up with. This movie has got a little bit of everything in it even a child murderer. That’s why I like Miike. He is never predictable like other directors which is why he stands out so much and you’ll always be entertained by his movies even when some of his work is rather uncomfortable to watch.

detective story screenshot

The cast are excellent in their roles from the leading characters to the supporting ones. Kazuya Nakayama is fantastic as the detective Kazama. He is played mostly for laughs. For some reason Kazama puts on a wig sometimes when he’s out on duty (perhaps as a kind of disguise?) which he only takes off when he’s back at his apartment. I guess that’s a part of the eccentricity associated with the character. What happens to Kazama as he confronts the killer at the end is hilarious although many will see it as being gross.

Detective Story might not be up there with Miike’s greatest works but with it’s warped sense of humour and high gore content it’ll no doubt please his fans. I really enjoyed it.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Fly With The Gold (2012)

fly with the gold new

Koda is a supplier for radical extremists and criminals who’s approached by an old university friend Kitagawa with a plan to steal 1.5 billion yen in gold bars from a vault under the main branch of Sumida Bank. Kitagawa puts together a team which consists of a banking system engineer named Noda, a North Korean spy Momo who is posing as an engineering exchange student, Kitagawa’s younger brother Haruki and a former elevator technician called Jiichan. After some careful planning, the six men carry out their audacious task but will they able to pull it off?

When I first read the plot summary for this movie I was expecting to see an Ocean’s 11 type of caper but what I saw was nothing of the sort. This is a gripping heist movie set in Osaka which has some exciting action sequences and a suspensful climax as the bank job naturally goes wrong. The first half of the movie sets about introducing us to the characters with a lot of the focus on Momo, the deadly North Korean spy who when he is not posing as a student is working at a food stall. Kitagawa has been keeping tabs on his apartment by spying on him through binoculars. He suspects that he is not all that he seems to be. Kitagawa’s hunches come true when one night after Momo has returned to his apartment, his enemies armed with guns come looking for him. Kitagawa along with Koda rush headlong to help Momo out and the three manage to escape but the consequences of helping the young North Korean out will come back to haunt Kitagawa later in the movie. Once the team has been assembled they set about carefully poring through the floor plans to the bank they’ve managed to get hold of and how they think they’re going to successfully steal the gold bars. There’s a major problem before they even manage to set the ball rolling as Momo’s enemies track him down. Even Kitagawa’s family isn’t spared by them as his pregnant wife and child are victims of a hit and run incident in a busy shopping street. It doesn’t distract Kitagawa to cancel the heist though. Tensions start to emerge between the team as Noda starts to become nervous. The plan is for Kitagawa, Koda and Jiichan to pose as elevator technicians and say to the bank security guards there’s a problem with one of the elevators whilst a series of explosions underground in another part of the city which will simultaneously go off with a bomb below the bank will distract the police long enough for the criminals to get inside the bank vault, steal the gold, make their way to the roof of the bank, haul the gold down by rope to the waiting getaway van below driven by Noda before they themselves use the rope to clamber down the side of the building and drive away. The best laid plans usually never come off smoothly and this is what happens for the gang.

Fly with the gold screenshot

There’s a strong cast for the movie which includes the main role for Tadanobu Asano along with Satoshi Tsumabaki. Normally young female Japanese adults wouldn’t give a second look at this type of movie but with the addition of Korean idol Changmin from the duo TVXQ as Momo and another young hearthrob in Junpei Mizobata I saw quite a few women in the audience in the cinema the day I went to Shibuya to see it. It’s more of a movie for men than anybody else but the moviemakers saw some sense and perhaps knew that if they added some young attractive men it would appeal to the ladies and bolster the takings for the movie as well.

I enjoyed the movie even though it does take some time for it to get going. It’s probably only around half way through the movie that the main plot of planning the bank job gets under way. I also think a good 30 mins should have been cut to quicken the pace of the plot. It’s a solid enough movie with enough thrills and spills to keep your interest and whilst it doesn’t contain the fun element that made the Oceans trilogy so popular it’s a worthy watch for Asian movie fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Into The White Night (2011)

A pawn shop owner in Osaka is murdered, but due to a lack of conclusive evidence the police lists the man’s death as a suicide. Detective Sasagaki, who investigated the case, can’t forget the dark eyes of the main suspect’s daughter Yukiho and the pawn shop owner’s son Ryouji. As time goes by, more mysterious deaths surround Yukiho & Ryouji. Detective Sasagaki still unable to let go of the pawn shop owner case discovers startling details about Yukiho and Ryouji …

This is a slow-burning mystery which centres on the death of a pawn shop owner back in the 80’s and how one police detective will not let go of the case even for nearly 20 years until he has solved it even after his retirement from the force. The story must be popular as 3 adaptations have been made in the last 6 years. First as a drama in 2006 then as a 2009 Korean movie before this one came along. It’s a detective story with a difference and quite a hard-hitting emotional journey into the darkest recess of humanity in which 2 people have to live with an event that happened whilst they were kids and the repercussions that follow. The movie takes it’s time to unravel itself and whilst 2 and a half hours for some people is rather long I never found the story boring and each new clue to the murder keeps your attention. Some of the subject matter of the movie is disturbing and involves child sex abuse. Considering the UK has been shocked in the past 2 months by the allegations that a popular dead TV celebrity regularly abused children for nearly 40 years, some scenes may prove hard to watch for some British viewers. I know I found them difficult and it makes you wonder how some adults can do such things to children. The final third of the movie brings all the loose ends we have been introduced over the course of the movie together and neatly ties them up to give a satisfying conclusion.

The two leads in the movie are excellent. Maki Horikita is usually associated with roles that cast her with a pure image but in this one she plays Yukiko Karasawa – an intimidating, scheming and manipulative character who will trample over anybody to get what she wants. She uses her charm and beauty to her advantage. It was great to see her in something like this and which shows a different side to her acting. Equally as good is Kengo Nora as the brooding Ryouji Kirihara. We get to learn how these 2 lost souls with a lot of pain inside them found comfort with each other when they were children at school and whose lives are bound together by a murder. The story follows them through to adulthood where they are still living with the trauma of what happened all that time ago. Plunged into the centre of this story is Detective Sasagaki who has been keeping tabs on the two since the murder took place but needs proof of who committed the crime. He sort of knows who did it but without conclusive evidence he can’t prove anything. Sasagaki is played with a dogged determination by Eiichiro Funakoshi.

Director Yoshihiro Fukagawa manages to weave a very dark, depressing and compelling storyline which is complemented nicely by the brilliant acting of Maki Horikita, Kengo Nora and Eiichiri Funakoshi. Well worth watching if you can stand the long running time.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

It’s the year leading up to the Tokyo Olympics and the yakuza gangs jostling for supremacy in Hiroshima who have been fighting amongst each other shows no sign of abating. The public though have had enough of the violence and bloodshed on their streets and pressure the police to crackdown on the yakuza gangs. The leader of the Hirono gang Shozo continues to harbour a grudge against his old boss Yamamori and he has bought in reinforcements in order to try and kill him once and for all. Other elder yakuza leaders wants a peaceful solution to end all the aggro but the younger members eager for a war on the streets makes the situation worse with tit-for-tat murders taking place. Eventually an all out war starts between the gangs but the police are ready and start arresting all the leaders. Will this lead to peace on the streets of Hiroshima?

The 4th in the Battles Without Honor and Humanity saga brings about a conclusion of sorts to the Hiroshima yakuza gangs story which the previous 3 movies have been chronicling during an 18 year period. There is an air of change in the plot for this movie. The police haven’t had much of a presence before, only glimpses of them have been shown. In this movie, they have more of a presence and thanks to massive pressure from the public who wants them to smash the yakuza rings they unleash the full force of the law as they begin to dismantle the gangs. Naturally the leaders in charge think they are above the law and send out their underlings to do their dirty deeds even if it means they’ll be arrested. As long as they remain in their comfortable position at the top of the chain it doesn’t matter. Shozo Hirono though is different from the rest and insists on carrying out his own business. His men though insist on taking care of his problems in order to protect him. Hirono probably seems to be the only boss who still tries to live by the old yakuza code of honour. The other leaders such as Yamamori are seen to be weak and whiny, avoiding decisions but are the first to take credit from others. As with the theme from the previous movies – short alliances are swiftly broken, double crossings happen and blood continues to be shed.

Director Kinji Fukusaku gives us a fast paced story with plenty of street fights with guns, knives and political maneouvering between the various gangs. He carries on with the style associated so far with the saga – freeze frames with the deaths of important gang members and a voice over explaining a situation that’s going on. As there’s so many characters in the storyline, some of the more interesting ones get lost in the shuffle and only get some brief screentime. There’s certainly more violence involved in this story and I’d say this is the bloodiest movie in the franchise. Examples of this include a man getting his nose cut off by a knife, a gang member stabbed in his hand and other nasty incidents such as a rifle being used as a bayonet to kill a man. As the violence escalates, the main protaganist Hirono is taken out of the equation and arrested by the police for a minor offence. By the time the movie comes to it’s conclusion, the days of the yakuza gangs running wild and free in Hiroshima has come to an end and the final voice over brings us the total number of deaths, wounded and arrests that have taken place over the years.

This is another worthy entry in the Battles Without Honor franchise and I’m eager to watch the last episode. Hirono and the other leaders maybe in jail by the climax of this movie but you can bet that their story isn’t over yet.

No trailer I’m afraid.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »