November 24, 2010

Crows Zero 2 (Miike Takashi, 2009)

My next film is Crows Zero 2. Now, I haven’t seen the first film, heard anything about it nor have I read the popular manga this franchise is based on so I’m expecting it to be a total surprise. It’s only part of my list because it’s Miike Takashi and the premise appealed to me.

I have a ambiguous relationship with Miike Takashi. In the whole, his films don’t appeal to me. But since he’s a critical and popular darling, and so prolific, I always end up thinking that maybe I don’t get his genius and I get convinced into trying him again just to make sure. Sukiyaki Western Django was exceptionally a nice surprise and the only film I felt his genuine love for cinema instead of virtuoso technical play. I always feel that Miike neglects the storytelling in his films, that they’re vapid works of plastic art, very complex to look at and deconstruct but with no heart and no purpose. Sukiyaki Western Django was totally different. You could feel his love for spaghetti westerns and genre films without him losing his flair for artsy fare.

So I go to see Crows Zero, hoping that it’s more Sukiyaki Western Django than Shinjuku Triad Society. Right away, I recognize the Miike cool in the film’s characters, in their brechtian dialogue, their jeans, chains, wild greased hair, machismo and nonchalant demeanor, those modern day warriors haunting the streets of Tokyo in search of a good fight. They’re all like yakuzas-in-training (the yakuzas even have a prominent role in the film) but all adhere to a different honor system than their organized crime counterparts. For them, a real man does not fight with weapons, only his bare fists. When one of them doesn’t stick to the honor code, choosing to draw a weapon during a fight, he’s alienated from his gang as retribution. It all culminates in an all-out massive brawl on the different floors of a disaffected school (an interesting re-appropriation of the institution) between dozens of rival gangs, with notable one-on-one fights between certain lead characters, an obvious manga reference.

Crows Zero 2 is much like Fight Club, without the individualist emphasis and psychological implications. It’s more interesting as a sociological snapshot, not necessarily realistic and accurate but portraying the spirit of Japanese honor, sense of community and male bonding while showcasing its marginalized youth.