As I write this movie review, I think of the term ‘extreme.’ To me, the term means pushing the limits with no regard to anything (or anyone) else around.
Merriam-Webster defines the term as some of the following:
- Existing in a very high degree.
- Going to great or exaggerated lengths.
- Exceeding the ordinary, usual or expected.
“Shinjuku Triad Society” fits in the theme of extreme as it is extremely violent, disgusting, troubling, odd (which includes the weird bits of comedy) and violent. I came into this film not knowing anything about Takashi Miike and his works, I know that he is a notable film maker in Japan and his films are special. He also directed that new adaptation of “Blade of the Immortal.”
I don’t regret what I have seen though and I look forward to seeing the rest of the Black Society Trilogy. Hopefully the rest of the movies are toned down and easier to follow but I am not holding my breath.
“Shinjuku Triad Society” is about many things. It’s a love story, a story about family and a story about warring factions.
The film begins with a youth (Zhou?) painting a backdrop of what’s to come. He begins to describe that he’s a member of The Dragon’s Claw Society and his boss was (emphasis on ‘was’) a man named Wang.
It was hard to follow what The Dragon’s Claw Society (Triads) is, they are from China, there’s a sex business going on and on the back side of it, also there’s some black market organ donations going on, but I’ll get to that later.
We meet Ryuji Kiriya, the hero of the story. He’s works as a police officer. They crash a party where the Triad’s are going to war with the Yakuza and the police are caught in the middle. The police capture some members of the group (immigrants from China) and keep them over night.
Ryuji is the hero of the movie but he’s not seen as one. He’s as corrupt as everyone else in the movie and probably the least likable character mostly because he resorts to violence and even takes advantage of people. We meet his brother Yoshihito (the lawyer), who is working with the Triads. Yoshihito, though working on the wrong side of the law, seemed to be the most tame one in the movie.
We also meet Wang (the villain) who is weird and violent. At the age of 14 he killed his father in Taiwan and fled to Japan. He also funded a hospital. Ryuji is tasked to take a suspect back to Taiwan and starts to dig a little deeper into the hospital and Wang’s origins. He learns about the black market and organ trading, also breaks the law too since he is acting outside of his country.
While this is happening, the Yakuza and Triad’s are still working together but things are becoming rocky (Triad’s are using the Yakuza).
We learn that Ryuji and Yoshihito were war orphans that came to Japan from China. They briefly explain that their mother was from China (she lived during this whole ordeal?) and I guess she remarried in Japan to their now Dad (who is very ill). Not much is explained there.
Once Ryuji comes back from his trip, he makes it a mission to rescue his brother. He arrives in a Yakuza den to get more information, gets the crap beaten out of him and is given to the Triad’s so they can do what they want to him.
Ritsuko, easily the best character in the movie, pretty much rescues Ryuji though he attacked and raped her prior to this. The sexual violence was unnecessary and the way some of it was set up as comedy made it really really hard to watch.
Eventually the Triad’s turn on the Yakuza and lots of people die. Ryuji and Yoshihito reunite and then start beating the crap out of each other. Ryuji gets the upper hand and sets his sights on Wang.
Wang doesn’t go down without a fight though. It took three bullets, a smashed bottle to the head and a glass spout to the neck to bring him down. After the ordeal, Wang gets a promotion and then he dies off screen.
“Shinjuku Triad Society” was a strange movie. It was hard to follow, hard to make a bond with any of these characters and hard to watch. Like I said earlier, I don’t regret watching this movie, this was a curiosity thing because I haven’t seen a lot of Japanese cinema (that wasn’t based on an anime) and I thought that this would get my feet wet.
Not only did I get my feet wet, I slipped on the side of the pool, bashed my head on the concrete and almost drowned.
Though some consider this movie a classic, has it aged well? No it has not.
If you’re looking for something new to watch and want to view something outside of your comfort zone, then by all means choose something else. I’m sure there are a lot of better movies out there that will sate your curiosity. If you do decide to watch this, you’re been warned.
In the meantime, I’m going to finish watching the rest of the “Black Society Trilogy” and let you know how it goes. Thanks for reading!