Why Don't You Play in Hell?
Premise: It's a Japanese action/comedy that has kind of a mouthful of a plot. It starts 10 years in the past, as a group of young guerrilla filmmakers (who hilariously/randomly call themselves "The F*** Bombers") aspire to make one truly great film in their lifetime. Elsewhere, the daughter of a Yakuza boss who stars in commercials walks in on the bloody aftermath of her mom killing four dudes from a rival Yakuza clan, which causes the mom goes to jail for the next 10 years for murder. Now, in present day, the bratty daughter is all grown up and gets tangled with a wimpy, clueless nerd who gets the ultimatum to either film a future (real life) raid of a rival Yakuza clan in a movie with his daughter as the star (as a get-out-of-jail present for the mom), or die. Then fate has the F*** Bombers (now an even more pathetic group of losers) get re-intertwined and can finally make their grand movie; and the whole spectacle of it all is pretty hilarious and nutty.
-It wears its influences on its sleeve, in a good way. To me, the storytelling kind of had a City of God vibe to it, but only if the Japanese knockoff of early 2000's Guy Richie was at the helm (Gai Richii..?). It pays all the tributes to Bruce Lee and John Woo that it wants to, and the final action scene had shades of Tarantino (or whoever Tarantino originally stole from). There's even a fantastic tracking shot on a beach that looks like they flew Wes Anderson to Japan for the day to guest direct. And it possibly pays homage to the end of Taxi Driver... Maaaaaaaybe...? The movie ain't short on style, I'm saying.
-As "cluttered" as the plot is, thank god it has a story that can take this many characters and intertwine them in a movie where it doesn't feel like any of them are wasted. It was a great ensemble project that culminates in spectacular fashion. Like, there's an overall focus here that felt unwavered.
-The final action scene is awesome. It takes a while to get there, but it's all worth it. I laughed out loud many times at how frantic and nonchalantly violent it was. It definitely did things that probably wouldn't have gone over so well in an American fight scene; like a decapitated body giving a peace sign, just because. Oh Japan, your movies can be gloriously funky sometimes.
-There's some great comedic facial acting from a lot of the dudes in the movie, too. I was losing it when the boss of the rival clan meets the girl he has a crush on. That was just a good lemon face right there.
-The cocaine induced fantasy sequence was pretty inspired.
-Maybe could have been 15 minutes shorter, because the journey to get to the inevitable climax (which you start to see coming pretty early on in the movie) takes a while to get there. But at least it doesn't stray away from its manic editing and spazzy humor at any point. To put it in a better way, all of the stuff in the first 90 minutes of the movie make it so the last 40 minutes are as perfectly loony as they need to be.
-I'm sure it's a culture thing, because I've noticed it in other Japanese movies I've seen over the years, but sometimes these Japanese movies have moments that just don't make a lick of sense to me and I wonder why they're even happening in the first place. But it kind of adds to the odd charm of them all. Still, what's up with that scene?!
-I'm guessing this isn't Japan's entry for the Foreign Language Film Academy Award, which makes me sad...
Final Thoughts: As far as the whole "movie about making a movie" genre goes, this is probably one of the more gleefully insane examples. But, ya know, it's probably not for everyone, or whatever. I wouldn't recommend it to you unless you've seen a crazy Japanese movie before, and liked it. As a big fan of Nobuhiko Obayashi's 1977 masterpiece of strange visuals and pianos that murder people, House (or Housu if I wanted to sound like an expert in Japanese cinema [I'M NOT]), I tend to like seeing stuff from Japan be as crazy as possible. Forget Austin, TX... Keep Japan Weird.
9 out of 10