November 24, 2010

Crows Zero 2 (Miike Takashi, 2009)

I hadn’t seen the first Crows Zero before venturing into the second one, nor had I heard anything about it or read the popular manga this franchise is based. It’s only part of my viewing list because the director is Miike Takashi and its premise appealed to me.

I have a love-hate relationship with the films of Miike Takashi. IHis films rarely 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 a nice surprise and the only film I felt his genuine love for cinema instead of virtuoso technical play. Miike neglects the storytelling in his films, that they’re vapid works of plastic art, complex to look at and deconstruct but with no heart and no purpose. Sukiyaki Western Django was 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. The Miike cool is in display in the film’s characters, in their brechtian dialogue, their jeans, chains, wild greased hair, machismo and nonchalant demeanour, those modern day warriors haunting the streets of Tokyo in search of a good fight. They’re all like yakuzas-in-training (the yakuzas have a prominent role in the film) but all adhere to a different honour system than their organized crime counterparts. For them, a real man doesn’t fight with weapons, only his bare fists. When one of them doesn’t stick to the honour 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 can be compared to like Fight Club, without the individualist emphasis and psychological implications. It’s interesting as a sociological snapshot, not necessarily realistic or accurate but portraying the spirit of Japanese honour, sense of community and male bonding while showcasing its marginalized youth.