Shinjuku Triad Society is fantastic
joe larkin | 07/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"So what's it about? Well, things begin at a rather quick pace, kind of like a predecessor to Dead or Alive's infamously manic prologue. Dead bodies litter the streets of Shinjuku, remnants of a powerful yakuza clan. The Shinjuku police swarm around, investigating the crime. One artistic fine film that every one should see."
Shaun | Minneapolis, MN USA | 05/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The scene is a rather familiar mixture of police versus yakuza, but shot at street level, with a gritty lens. It essentially begins with the murder of a police informer, who's found dismembered, lying in the street. The scene is a frenzied one, with passers-by horning in on the crime scene, investigators combing the crown for someone who can translate a witness's statements, and beat cops who pose for candid photos with the severed head! The entire film spans mostly Taiwanese & Japanese locales, Triad & Yakuza territories, and a multitude of dialects surrounding the Chinese, Taiwanese and Japanese gangsters. In fact, the language barriers (or more precisely, the languages themselves) are nearly characters in and of themselves. Even the police get wrapped up by it.
After a violent and multi-faceted beginning, the film becomes clearer; the Chinese-born Kiriya is a Japanese cop who becomes obsessed with saving his younger brother's future as a lawyer, while Yoshihito (the younger brother) has agreed to help in an "illegal" underground organ harvesting program the Yakuza and Triads have been conducting. The Chinese police know about it, but they consider two willing parties as a legit deal, 'Who has been wronged?', they say. Kiriya is sent to China to investigate the organ-harvesting case, but uses most of the time to investigate Wang, the head of a syndicate, who has employed Yoshihito as council/intermediary.
The film definitely has a gritty, 1980's feel to it, and catches the far east gangster scene at the height of it's power and brutality. Nobody is safe, noone is untouchable. I don't presume to "get" everything going on here, there's so many facets to a society I've never known, but Miike does a great job at parsing the dynamics/motivations of every character; even if they don't have a major role. Be it a drugged-up, strung-out whore who ultimately wants to live a normal life, or a Japanese officer who cares deeply for his Chinese parents that speak no Japanese and feel lost in the country they now live. One of those is a major character, and one is a minor one...but both lives are illuminated sufficiently. If I had to mention a negative, it would be that there's just so much jammed into the film that it was pulled in too many directions. The up-side is that it never became convoluted. Another would be, and I don't know if Miike did it for show/shock, but the movie is packed (no pun intended) with loads (no pun intended) of gay sex between the gangters themselves or the gangters and a couple of androgynous man-children. The police even use ass-rape as an interogation tactic. He lost me there."
Perfect, just perfect
Wux Iapan | Zurich | 07/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In the last years I tried to get into the nasty yakuza movie genre where a lot of blood is flowing, a lot of coldness, depravity and stuff is going hand-in-hand with themes of loyality, friendship and stuff. What I mostly like about them is the sick tone they have. It's different from western movies, the setting, the actors... maybe it took me so long to fully get into the genre, but I prefer to think of this film as just being totally superb. I liked Dead or alive, but didn't love it. I had to watch GRAVEYARD OF HONOR twice to get the plot (it's literally jumping forth and back in time), with both movies I wasn't really connected, the guy in GRAVEYARD OF HONOR is an allegorical figure, the personification of japan, it's system etc. that I don't really know. So it was like watching the complete, bloody downfall of a complete, bloody maniac that can only express emotions through rape and violence. I was cringing a lot about how the guy functions, destroying people who want to help him, this was the only emotional level to experience.
In this film, you have less coldbloodness and less depravity than with Dead Or Alive or Graveyard. But I followed this movie with every second. It's brilliantly shot, the pictures and pace is leading you throught this journey very smoothly. It also contains a lot of blood and violence and even some raping and sexual abusing, but it's ultimatly clear that Miike cares for the people in this film, they're not only fudder for sadistic jokes like with most Tarantino movies. It even has unfunnny funny moments: the cop is about to rape a prostitute for answers, and she says "But SM is more expensive!". She's the only female victim and she's surprisingly "funny". What isn't really funny but shown very graphic is the actions of a young call boy who obviously was trained to sexually satisfy adults. He does it with a sincere smile on his face but gets treated really bad. With such scenes I truly believe the director when he says "I just show the things the way they are." With children prostitutes it is that way, they - at worst - grow up like this. I had seen some on TV lately, 9 years old that talk like professional prostitutes, not knowing how sick they have become.
The movie is about this cop who is after Wang, a gay, paedophil yakuza boss. His favorite boy we see at the beginning, satisfying an old man, then walking throught the streets, easily cutting up a cop's wrists and arterials when crossing his way. This triggers the need to watch after this gang and catch the boy who did this. So the police catches the old man and a prostitute, they keep him for some time untill they must be released. The lawyer who is getting them out of the prison is the cop's brother, a naiv newcomer who just finished graduation. From then on, the whole case becomes more complicated, private and personal to the cop. Also, the brothers never were really close, it's family loyality that makes the cop wanna save the life of his brother who seems not to have an idea of what's he gotten himself into.
This film is really astonishing. The actors are total first rate. It's so realistic, when the two brothers meet up with their parents. There's family love between the brothers and a father that is about to die soon. The parents are so sweet, not knowing what's going on in their sons lifes, not realizing the two have become enemies by their professions. The cop's methods aren't nice, in fact he's a dirty, depraved cop, he rapes informants or uses rapists to get informations, he makes no difference between women and men when he gets violant. To foresee that his brothers career will lead him into a downward spiral (as later on, the yakuza decide to turn him into a heroin addict) he sees some sort of help he can offer. Only that the younger doesn't want it, so even when loyality helps them, there's still this fundamental conflict between them. It reminds a bit of BAD LEUTENAND where one can sense a way to do something good, after all the bad before that."