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Like a Dragon

Posted under Japanese Movies by admin on Saturday 28 February 2009 at 01:07

110 minutes, 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by: Takashi Miike
Starring: Kazuki Kitamura, Goro Kishitani, Sho Aikawa, Yoshiyoshi Arakawa, Kenichi Endo, Tomoro Taguchi


The wildman of Japan, Takashi Miike, proves that there’s no kind of movie he can’t turn inside out. Based on a videogame, in Miike’s hands LIKE A DRAGON turns into a long hot Shinjuku summer night with an indestructible yakuza hero, a pair of incompetent bank robbers, two young lovers on a crime spree, a Korean hitman, a masochistic gun dealer and an ultraviolence-loving baseball fan all crossing paths, slamming into each other and shooting off in crazy directions like a game of human pinball jacked up on speed.

The record heatwave hitting the crowded, honeycombed streets of Shinjuku are forcing air conditioners to utter one shuddering last breath before giving up the ghost. Sweaty nerves are already frayed when word leaks out that ten billion yen of the Tojo Clan’s money has disappeared from a bank vault, and that’s bad news for two Abbot and Costello robbers who hold up the bank after the money is already gone. It’s also bad news for tough guy Kiryu who just got out of prison after being locked away for so long he doesn’t know how to use a cell phone. He picks up a kid along the way, Lone Wolf and Cub style, and is trying to help her find her mother. The Nishikyama Clan have it in their heads that Kiryu must have something to do with the ten billion yen and jump him every chance they get. Before his time in stir, Kiryu also left some unfinished business with another Yakuza thug named Majima who urges his men to read the Nikkei Financial Times when he isn’t cracking their skulls for getting on his wrong side. He and his men begin combing the streets looking for Kiryu with baseball bats in hand. Throw into this already combustible mix a Korean hitman from Seoul who makes contact with his agent by replying “Address Unknown” to the password “Kim Ki-Duk” and add in two teenagers in love who suddenly decide to do a Bonny and Clyde and you’ve got a total gangland meltdown.

Though the videogame is Miike’s jumping off point what he really gives the audience is a tongue-in-cheek ode to ninkyo eiga (“chivalry films”) of the 1960’s where a broad shouldered Yakuza hero lived by the code of real men while all around him floundered. LIKE A DRAGON has a number of those elements from Kiryu’s stiff faced never say die attitude to masculine theme songs jumping out at any time to tickle you in the ribs. Of course, Miike being Miike, he ramps up this old genre 1000% with a series of ferociously over-the-top action set pieces and off-the-wall characters, but he’s constantly jolting the proceedings with extremely funny comic relief. It makes for one of his most enjoyable films ever and along with SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO, it counts for two homeruns for him in 2007.


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