To do a minor story recap, Yamamoto (Takeshi) is forced to relocate to America following a mob war in Japan that he lost. He goes to find his kid brother Ken (Kuroudo Maki), who he has been sending money for school to, only to find him dealing drugs on a street corner with Danny (Omar Epps) and his friends. Yamamoto takes over their gang and immediately turns them in to a major underworld in LA, which leads to a conflict with the local Mafia.
The first thing that I’m sure will strike people when they see this film is the violence. To be honest, this is a very violent film, in an uncompromising way that makes it entirely clear that this is not a life one should want to try and emulate. While I’m sure that if this film becomes a hit (which it deserves to), it will immediately be hammered on by Senators Lieberman and Clinton as more evidence of Hollywood attempting to corrupt the youth of America. Frankly, I hope that both of them and their stupid asinine bill go away quickly, but that’s another thing entirely. The bottom line is that for all the violence, this isn’t a film about how great it is to shoot and kill people. It is a film about the friendships we make and how those will sustain us through everything. I hope that this is what is pushed when people discuss the film, but I know that it won’t be and that saddens me.
As for the technical merits of the film, they are outstanding. Kitano infuses the film with a completely objective eye, viewing everything for it is and nothing more. Even in the most violent scenes he never uses the camera to convince you of who is “evil” and who is “good”. He leaves that judgment up to the viewer, without forcing emotions on to the audience as most Hollywood directors do. The editing of the film, while keeping the pace moving, never uses the insanely fast cuts favored by most people when shooting action films. All of this serves to draw in the viewer by allowing him or her to just let the images soak in and affect them in whatever way they wish them to.
The acting of the film is all-around solid, with probably the best performance I’ve ever seen out of Omar Epps. To be honest, he was the person I was most worried about going in to the film, but he definitely surprised me with the depth of his performance. The way he and Takeshi played off each other allowed me to easily believe in the connection that the two of them had to have to make the story have its proper style and gravity. I hope to see more of all of these actors in other films, as they all gave great performances.
Overall, this was just an amazing film. It releases for the general public in July, and I cannot stress enough they you should seek this film out as soon as you can to see. In a year of fairly weak films, this is unquestionably a bright spot and one of the best films I have ever seen.Rating: A+