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DVD Review: Crows Zero – A Film By Takashi Miike

The J-Rock soundtrack is as hard-hitting as the fight scenes!

Based on the bestselling manga by Hiroshi Takahashi (screenwriter of the original Japanese Ring movies), Crows Zero, directed by Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer), became a box office hit in Japan and spawned an equally successful sequel.

The notorious Suzuran Senior High School for Boys is Japan’s lowest achieving and most violent school, nicknamed “The School of Crows” after its students’ tendency to band together in conflicting factions and battling each other for domination. The one thing they all share is a common goal that has never been achieved in the school’s history: unification. No single faction has ever reigned supreme. But that could be about to change.

Genji Takiya (Shun Oguri), a recent transfer student from a rival school, has set his sights on taking over Suzuran High School before graduation. The only person standing in his way is Suzuran’s toughest and most respected senior, Tamao Serizawa (Takayuki Yamada). It looks like an even match until Genji gains a slight advantage when he finds an unlikely mentor in the shape of Ken Katagiri (Kyosuke Yabe), an old boy yakuza gang member with something to prove and a score to settle.

(Image courtesy of MVM Entertainment)

When you have a film about two opposing violent gangs it‘s a little difficult to root for either side since, let’s face it, there really are no good guys, especially when they have a close connection with local yakuza and are inevitably going to end up as members of gangs within the criminal underworld. Nevertheless, it’s pretty obvious we must side with Genji who has something to prove to his father a yakuza boss, the delinquents at Suzuran Senior High School, and himself.

(Image courtesy of MVM Entertainment)

In order to show that Genji isn’t all bad and that he has some redeeming features, his “love interest” (a loose term), Ruka Aizawa (Meisa Kuroki), is kidnapped and the dissident youth and his crew fight to get her back. Sadly, the relationship between the two doesn’t go anywhere and feels rather pointless. On the other hand, the rapport between Genji and meagre yakuza member Katagiri is much more engaging with actor Yabe putting in a particularly fine performance, in fact, it is Katagiri whom we feel the most empathy for; a former Suzuran student who is now nothing more than a messenger for the head of a yakuza gang and puts all his hopes and beliefs into Genji whom he sees as the person he wished he could’ve been.

(Image courtesy of MVM Entertainment)

Another downside to this film is that it really doesn’t know what it wants to be: A comedy or a tense drama. Whilst some of the humour does work, it seems to dumb down the film’s darker more edgy side.

We do however get to feel that perhaps the school is more than just a place for these roughens to attend every day; it’s a haven of sort for them since it’s pretty obvious they all come from troubled families and each one feels that being in a gang gives them a sense of belonging and purpose and can therefore hang their hopes on their leader.

The fight scenes pack a punch (pardon the pun) and are the films saving grace, although, at times it is difficult to make out who is fighting whom. The J-Rock soundtrack is as hard-hitting as the fight scenes – the two are paired well together. Although, the ballad-style track played over a segment of the climactic fight scene is a bit cheesy and a little out of place.

(Image courtesy of MVM Entertainment)

Apart from all its faults, the film’s commentary on camaraderie is at the heart of the plot and executes well the notion that just as in business, rather than trying to overthrow those who oppose you, it is much wiser to get them to be on your side so that a greater cause can be fought.

The true message of Crows Zero is that it doesn’t matter how good you are, or how good you think you are, there is always someone out there who is better than you, and it is inevitable that you will one day be challenged and possibly defeated.

So to conclude then, Crows Zero isn’t so much a movie for men as it is a movie for coming-of-age boys.  A cross between The Warriors and The Wanderers (both released in 1979), minus a solid script, Crows Zero is visually stylish and will undoubtedly appeal to adolescents but may disappoint the more harden Miike fans who might find it just doesn’t live up to his previous triumphs, even though the box office takings may say otherwise.

(Image courtesy of MVM Entertainment)

Label: MVM Entertainment

Release date: 9th April 2012

Certificate: 15

Running time: 133 mins

Genre: Asian cinema, Martial arts, Action

Director: Takashi Miike

Stars: Shun Oguri, Kyosuke Yabe, Meisa Kuroki, Takayuki Yamada, Sansei Shiomi, Ken’ichi Endo, Goro Kishitani

Review written by Spencer Lloyd Peet (Administrator)

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