Thursday, June 7, 2012

City of Lost Souls (2000)

Dir: Takashi Miike.

This slamming bit of warped cinema from the dark mind of Japan's Takashi Miike tells the tale of 'Mario' (Teah, who also appears in Miikes "Dead or Alive 2") a Japanese/Brazilian half-cast Gangster who travels to Japan to collect his Chinese girlfriend 'Kei' (Michelle Reis), who is in the process of being deported.

Rescuing her (in a superbly brutal Helicopter/Bus attack sequence) he goes to Tokyo to get passports, but here he runs into the psychotic Triad leader 'Ko' (Mitsuhiro Oikawa) who is obsessed with 'Kei' and vows to get her and make 'Mario' suffer.
Failing to get away 'Mario' and 'Kei' hitch up with 2 friends to rob 'Ko' of his money during a drug transaction with the equally psychotic Yakusa leader 'Fushimi' (Koji Kikkawa), who hates the Chinese and especially 'Ko'.

Accidentally stealing the drugs, instead of the cash, 'Mario' and his friends open up a World of trouble as the Triads, the Yakusa, the Cops and even old friends, after a bounty is put out on 'Mario', attempt to hunt them down...
Although not quite as brutal (or downright warped and perverted) as stuff like "Dead or Alive" or the infamous "Ichi; The killer", Miike still manages to pile in some nasty beatings and shockingly raw, blood spattered and pounding shoot-outs into his tale of doomed love and life in a multi-cultural Tokyo, to never let you forget that you are in the World of full-on, stuff the sensitive viewer, Japanese hyper kinetic Cinema.

The finale shootout is stylish, wildly comic book in its execution and pulse racingly exciting. It's Miike showing us hoe you don't need a single bit of slow motion to make a powerful, crowd-pleasing slice of gun mayhem.
But throughout the movie we are treated to some strong, violent images and they compliment the basic romance plot perfectly.
These are not your normal, Joe Public, heroes and villains...all of the characters are dark and damaged in some way.
Our 'hero' 'Mario' is as cool as ice but he's as cold blooded in his killing as the two main Triad/Yakusa 'villains' (we see him blow away Cops without a seconds thought), there are no white and black hats on show here to signpost our 'goodies' and 'baddies'.

The acting is top notch as well, with all involved making the most of every second of their screen time to make an impression.
Teah, as 'Mario' brings a lot of mixed up emotions to his complex character, and makes a striking visual impression with his Brazilian/Japanese looks.

Reis looks absolutely stunning and handles her limited character well, with some good work in the scenes where we see she can be just as ruthless as the rest of them.

Oikawa, as 'Ko' is introduced in a very stylish way, as his pale, truly striking, oriental visage emerges from the dark interior of his car. 'Ko' acts very laid back and cold, almost gliding around his cave lair (under a Cockfighting building!) like a ghost.
We also see, that despite this coolness, he's sexually driven and his effeminate manner really blurs the line of that sexuality.

Kikkawa as 'Fushimi' is more conventional in his acting, as his character is more conventional. He's your typical, cool Yakusa. All rumbling vocals and dark glasses. But he still makes his presence known in his crucial scenes.

The support Characters are, as in all Miike's 'Yakusa' based films, suitably memorable and eye catching. Not one character is wasted, even those that don't speak make us notice them.
And of course nearly all the characters look perfect. They all seem to look like they stood for 5 hours in front of a mirror to get their look just right before venturing outside!

This (for the most part) is a film full of beautiful people, Male and Female.
'Ko' and especially his henchmen, like 'Riku' are truly beautiful men, just as much as the gorgeous Kei is a truly beautiful woman. 'Mario's' exotic mixed looks and endless parade of cool, long coats that he's given, yet again, show that Miike bathes both sexes on his cinematic catwalk with equal glamour.

Also look out for the trademark Miike strangeness, as the rules of normality and simply nature itself, are thrown away with mischievous joy. We see 'Kei' and 'Mario' leap from their flying helicopter and normally we would then see they are in fact only feet of the ground, or are going to land on something soft. Not here!!
They ARE high up, and they do plummet downwards, hand in hand, to smash through the roof of a shed...only to simply walk out, via slow-motion, still holding hands!!
Crazy, but cool.
The bizarre highlight though has to be a Cockfight where two CGI chickens zip out of baskets (one is a cool metal cage that unfolds) and proceed to perform some kick ass Martial Arts moves...which also include some "Matrix" style 3D, in the air, freeze frame action!!

So, we have a conventional tale of love and crime in a big city given a violent and wonderfully bizarre twist in it's telling by one of modern Cinema's true maverick visionaries.

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