Shinjiku Triad Society
with Kippei Shîna, Tomorô Taguchi, Takeshi Caesar
Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Ichirô Fujita
(Arts Magic DVD)
by Chad Van Wagner
In a month of atypical films by Japan’s absurdly prolific Takishi Miike, we get a film that’s precisely what Miike fans expect: Blood, guts, depraved sex, overblown misogyny, Yakuza, more blood, tough guys, more guts…
The film opens with a man beating a woman with a chair, then raping her. She, of course, falls in love with him. And that’s before the underage boy blows the dude in the bar. But what separates his work from the nine million other B-movie directors working the same angle is Miike’s ability to take the sensationalistic and give it genuine dramatic weight.
No, really, there IS a serious film in here, albeit one that doesn’t have much positive to say about the human condition. The “hero” here is a “halfu,” half Japanese, half not-Japanese (in a society as homogenous as Japan, this creates more than a few problems, particularly for a gangster). The plot is not particularly remarkable, but it’s the sheer perversity of the details that makes the jaw drop. What makes Shinjiku Triad Society more than a tawdry exploitation flick is the fact that Miike pulls no punches… AT ALL. This is not good-natured (or even mean-spirited) “can you bear to watch the screen” mayhem. This is the work of a man who understands just how far the human animal can sink, and how being a monster only makes those around you more monstrous.
I have to admit, I fast-forwarded through a lot of the, uh, “good stuff.” I can watch almost anything, if it maintains its distance as entertainment. Miike is far too good a director to allow that to happen, so, paradoxically, his films are often harder to watch. You genuinely feel for these people, so much so that you can’t watch them degrade themselves any more. Rough going, but worthy.