November 26, 2010

Brass Knuckle Boys (Kankuro Kudo, 2008)

Brass Knuckle Boys is a Japanese film about the punk-rock music scene in Japan in the ‘70s-‘80s. When an old video of young punk rock group Brass Knuckle Boys goes viral on the Internet, a young music manager is tasked with recruiting the group for the label she works for. But, she soon discovers that it’s a 25-year-old recording and that her newest sensation (whose comeback tour has already been sold out by the record label) is composed of a bunch of fifty year old has-beens who quickly jump at the chance to revisit their short-lived rock-star glory days.

As a comedy, Brass Knuckle Boys is very close in structure to the hilarious Japanese metal rock farce, Detroit Metal City (Toshio Lee, 2008). Driven by with the unwavering spirit of punk rock, the old rockers tour through underground venues in rural Japan, striving to remember how to play their instruments, persevering even through their young audience’s hackling and rejection, through their label’s and their manager’s lack of faith, and through their personal challenges. The interesting part of the narrative is that they never get any better musically but their infectious love of punk soon overshadows any of their flaws, bringing them to the popular happy end in an interesting way.  

With its infectious energy, Brass Knuckle Boys works because it never pretends that its characters will become musical virtuosos or evolve into different characters. Throughout the movie, the principal characters stay true to themselves, an approach that, I realize now, has almost disappeared from contemporary western pop films.