Young Thugs: Innocent Blood
with Takeshi Caesar, Seiji Chihara, Noriko Eguchi
Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Riichi Nakaba, Masa Nakamura
(Arts Magic DVD)
by Chad Van Wagner
This sequel to Young Thugs: Nostalgia is director Takashi Miike’s favorite of his films. Considering how utterly screwed up his oeuvre is, that’s a bit of a shock, since the Young Thugs series is more concerned with internal conflict than external weirdness.
Young Thugs: Innocent Blood, despite a title that sounds like a Rutger Hauer straight-to-video project, is a perceptive and even-handed study of how one boy’s troubled youth makes his inevitable maturation more complicated than normal. Riichi returns from Young Thugs: Nostalgia, and he’s dating Ryoko, a young hairdresser, who might well be the only sane person he knows.
Problem is, he runs into his childhood crush, and things get… complicated. Turns out she’s a call girl, and Riichi gets very close to pissing away what he got against all odds in the first place. Whereas Nostalgia was concerned with growing kids (and therefore could afford to be a bit more straightforward in the characters’ actions), Innocent Blood happens much more in people’s heads. Like its prequel, there’s no “plot,” exactly, although there’s a bit more of a narrative skeleton to hang onto.
It bears mentioning again that despite the fact that the gang in question ends up working for the Yakuza, this isn’t a blood and guts, over-the-top exercise in surreal outrage. This is a subtle treatment of a sensationalist topic, much closer to the criminal character studies of Beat Takeshi (Hana-Bi, Brother). Talented as he is, Miike’s no Takeshi, but Young Thugs: Innocent Blood puts him a lot closer to that high standard than you would’ve thought possible. Impressive.