A stylized and violent thriller, prolific director Takashi Miike's City of Lost Souls (2000) is set in the ganglands of Tokyo and pays homage to Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, and, in a weird, animated cockfighting se... more »quence, The Matrix. Mario (Teah) is the Japanese-Brazilian gunslinger fresh out of jail who, in a hilariously audacious action sequence, hijacks a helicopter to save his Chinese girlfriend Kei (Michelle Reis) from deportation. He must then secure 18 million yen to secure fake passports for both of them to make a new life for themselves in Australia. In a misconceived operation, Mario arrives at the lair of the intriguing Ko, Kei's ex-boyfriend--a self-assured, effeminate young exchange student--who is somehow head of a vicious gang of Triads. He's at the point of buying a consignment of cocaine from decadent, cold-blooded Yakuza gangster Fushimi when Mario's arrival triggers a shootout, with Mario escaping with the wrong suitcase. Now, in time-honored True Romance fashion, Mario and Kei are on the run from the mob. Although visually tricky with some strong set pieces, The City of Lost Souls is rather hazy when it comes to story and characterization. We get little sense of the runaway couple as people. A young blind girl is introduced into the tale and there are romantic moments between Mario and Kei, but these feel like sugary palliatives to the bloodshed rather than touching moments. Better perhaps to check out Miike's Audition, a brilliantly gruesome satire on male Japanese attitudes toward womanhood. This is a flashier, faster, but less artistically satisfying affair. --David Stubbs« less
Wheelchair Assassin | The Great Concavity | 10/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It seems that when people in the know discuss Takashi Miike, it's not long before the name Quentin Tarantino comes up. That comparison is certainly not inapt, as Miike shares Tarantino's gift for showing viewers a world in which conventional notions of law and morality are virtually nonexistent. That said, "City of Lost Souls" is the work of a visual stylist who clearly stands on his own abilities. As one would expect from the guy who made the action classic "Dead or Alive," "City of Lost Souls" explores a dark underside of Japanese life filled with unsavory characters and violent happenings. Also like "Dead or Alive," the movie explores (though admittedly not in much depth) the interactions of different peoples in Japanese soceity, in this case the Japanese, the Chinese, and Brazilians. Perhaps most notable, though, is the presence of a high level of bizarre and even surreal elements that set Miike well apart from the action-movie pack. Of course, it's all filmed in Miike's skewed, frenetic style, which makes the movie distinctive enough on its own.
The plot, to the extent that one exists, centers around Mario and Kei, one of the more unlikely couples you'll see in a movie. Mario is a deadly Brazilian criminal who opens the movie by shooting up a bar in his home country; Kei is an absurdly gorgeous apprentice hairdresser who starts the movie on a bus waiting to be deported to her native China. That all changes, though, when Mario stages a dramatic rescue involving an assault rifle and a commandeered helicopter. While the relationsip of Kei and Mario clearly takes center stage here, it's equally clear early on that this is no ordinary love story.
It's after that rescue scene that things start to get a little complicated. Trying to get out of the country, Mario and Kei wind up getting caught between the Yakuza and the Chinese Triad when they steal some cocaine during a deal between the two sides. Pretty soon both groups are on their trail, meaning Mario, Kei, and the tight-knit Brazilian community around them are all in danger of catching a bullet at any moment. Making a bad situation worse, the Yakuza leader, Fushimi, is an unhinged sociopath staging a power grab, and the top Triad, Ko, is Kei's ex-boyfriend and still hasn't quite let go of her in his mind. So, to sum up, the Yakuza and the Triad are both after Kei and Mario, Ko is after Kei, the Brazilian community is soon after Mario, and Fushimi is seemingly after anyone who gets within shooting distance.
Naturally, Miike uses this plot and the accompanying explosive situation as a springboard for the expected series of twisted happenings and profuse bloodshed. Whatever this movie may lack in terms of plot or character development is more than made up for in sheer visual appeal. Obviously a gifted director of action, Miike also impresses with his knack for constructing the kind of set pieces that you just won't see in mainstream American action movies. Mixed in with the conventional shootings, beatings, and explosions are such decidedly unconventional elements as a cockfighting scene inspired by "The Matrix" of all movies, a scene in which Kei sets a guy on fire with some Vodka, and a ping-pong match with deadly consequences for one of the participants. Better yet, much like "Dead Or Alive," the movie hits its climax with a frenetic, shoot-'em-up finale that's sort of like a miniature version of one of John Woo's legendary denouements.
In the end, while it is a bit shallow, "City of Lost Souls" is a more than sufficiently entertaining film for those into the genre. Miike's highly caffeinated, stylish direction is perfect for those with short attention spans, and the whole movie makes a brilliant piece of eye candy. It may not be great, but it looks great, and that's plenty close enough. Any movie with this many cool shots and bullets flying around is worth checking out."
"People in this world, we have no place to go..."
Henry Platte | Boston, MA | 03/15/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At the risk of sounding very pretentious, I think that some of the negative reviews miss the point of the film. First of all, I agree that the action sequences are excellent, but there is another dimension here. This is not a conventional action movie; it is about desperate, lonely people looking for a sense of place. They behave so recklessly not because of courage but out of desperation. Even Fushimi, one of the only main characters who is not an expatriate, is tortured by a sense of Japan's waning nationalism. Overall, I think it's an outstanding movie: stylish, smart and not entirely without depth. And the 'play ping-pong?' scene surely deserves a place in the modern cinema pantheon along with the laser scene in 'Goldfinger.'"
3 ½ Stars: A Lunatic Japanese-Brazilian Guy and Gorgeous Chi
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 11/17/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Quentin Tarantino quotes Takashi Miike as "the best director of this generation". Like him or not, Miike can pull off almost anything from surreal black comedies, brutal violence, disturbing terror, child-friendly fantasy films, philosophical drama and even mainstream appeal in his films. The man is a master of movement and visual flair. "CITY OF LOST SOULS" (aka. Hyoryu Gai, 2000) may well be his most romantic film to date--and NO, the director definitely has not yet made a sappy love story.
An odd couple; a Brazilian-Japanese, Mario (Teah) and a Chinese hairdresser, Kei (beauteous Michele Reis), unintentionally begins a downward spiral into hell. When Kei is about to be deported by Japanese authorities, Mario saves her in a daring rescue. Mario then hides her in Japan's Brazilian quarter until they can secure passports so they can escape Japan. They'll need money to do so, and they decide to steal money from the Yakuza but instead ends up selling cocaine. Now, with Ko (Mitsuhiro Oikawa) and Fushimi (Koji Kikkawa) hot on their trail, the two lovers embark on a nightmarish adventure....
Despite the film's romantic undertone, Miike never sacrifices his usual entries of blood, dark comedy and bizarre visuals that made him famous. "City of Lost Souls" may not be as shocking as Miike's "Dead Or Alive" and "Fudoh" but it is entertaining enough in its own unique way. The film has a very simple plot, but the film's style and exaggerated manga-comic-book inspired sequences provides its entertainment value. The film also has its share of bizarre sequences, a cock-fight with chickens on steroids, hints of bestiality, and oddball characters that is the trademark of Japanese cinema. The film is very fast-paced and moves very quickly with the introduction of its characters. Surrealism is blended with its comic book-like sequences and it is definitely NOT your usual mediocre action film.
Although, the background of Mario and Kei's relationship is underdeveloped which makes it rather difficult to form an attachment to them, the film overloads your brain with its imagery and characters. The film looks very cool and makes up for its simple premise. The characters are interesting enough and the dialogue is indeed "quippy" enough. "It's a miracle--God is definitely Brazilian.." are some of the film's humorous dialogue as quoted by a weird Brazilian radio commentator. Of course, it is no surprise that Miike would have Kei abused and beaten, Asian cinema isn't at all too kind with its treatment of women onscreen. It is rather mild compared to Miike's other films though. Surprisingly, the film has no sex or female nudity on display--they are hinted at but never shown on camera.
The most interesting characters I thought were Lucia (sexy Patricia Manterola) and the little girl, Carla. They weren't as developed as Ko or Fushimi but I rather thought they served as the film's spirit and our lovers' conscience. The other supporting characters themselves represented different cultures in a common nation. There are subtle amounts of social commentary that no "race" or person is perfect, that each one relies on the other. One's own sense of honor and dignity is what one should cling to.
The film has its stylish doses of gunplay that has the flair of "bullet ballet". The helter-skelter gunfights have the heavy doses of style with the Miike splattering blood effects. There are also some displays of the Brazilian Martial Art Capoeira but this idea didn't really fully develop. The film is also multi-lingual: Japanese, Portuguese, Mandarin and Russian is spoken in its proceedings. This is a good approach as it does emulate the idea of a "melting pot" of ethnicity in Japan.
"City of Lost Souls" is not your usual action film and definitely NOT for everybody. However, those two chickens fighting in a fight arena may be worth the price of the dvd. Imagine two chickens on steroids moving as Morpheus and Neo would in "The Matrix". Takashi Miike's film borders on being odd and bizarre and this film is no different. The great imagery and camerawork is definitely the film's strength and further cements his position as a "master of movement". (it is odd that America sees Miike more as a "master of horror") Takashi Miike is a maestro of cinema but truth be told, his movies are more than most people can manage to understand and see.
Recommended for fans of Japanese cinema. [3 ½ Stars]
Paul Kath | Canada | 06/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"To me this would be the most overlooked Takashi Miike film. Or to say that's it's more overlooked of his region-1 DVD releases.This film is nothing like i've ever seen done. It takes multiple languages/cultures and clashes them in a funny, violent and all around fun film. The characters are kinda cartoonish but they all have a dark edge to them. The lead man Mario (played by japanese-brazilian porno star Teah) barely speaks thoughout the film but he has some sorta superhuman edge to him. The story here is that Mario just got outta jail and his woman Kei is risking deportation so after crashing the deportation bus and killing a few people he gets Kei, not before they envelop a plan to rip off some coke from a yakuza/triad/russian mob connection. Yeah it's confusing but easy to follow. The soundtrack is awesome, with some punkish tunes to fit the mood and more mellow songs to fit that mood. It all works well. There is violence, and lots of it, a few quick but awesome shootouts and some bloodier goings on but not as brutal as other Miike films (DOA for one). The acting is good, but like I said it's a bit cartoonish and over-the-top at times. The ending is well.... A letdown in terms of quality. But this is still a great film, with lotsa style (a CG chicken cockfight for one term), humor (a midget, slapstick humor) and just plain fun.Recommended."
Very nice juicy crime flick.
Amanda | Austin, TX | 01/13/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been exploring the works of Miike since first stumbling upon "Audition" back when it hit the art house theater circuits over a year or so ago, and while that movie still seems to be his plot-driven-film climax, "City Of Lost Souls" has turned out to be the most entertaining and re-watchable Miike movie to come out of my viewings. Plot, violence, tenderness, action, it all seems quite balanced in this one, and the ending is something I never even saw coming, and was a wee bit angry at for a split-second, yet after thinking on it, I really could accept it. Overall, quite enjoyable and involving, my favorite Miike to date."