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A young foot soldier in the yakuza seeks revenge when his prostitute girlfriend dies after a session with a high-ranking Japanese politician with a taste for torture. He sets out on a 'kamikaze' mission to kill his bosses and the politician; along the way, he acquires the aid of a taxi driver who has recently returned to Japan after living in South America for several decades and is struggling to cope with poverty and the prejudices of native-born Japanese. Written by
Jesse Garon <firstname.lastname@example.org>
'Kamikaze Taxi' opens with a newsreel-style prologue examining the conditions of South American immigrants of Japanese origin, who have returned to Japan only to find unemployment and discrimination. The prologue moves on to cover the contemporary (as of 1995) state of Japanese government, and then proceeds into a film which depicts political corruption and its effect on Japan's cultural climate.
On the surface, however, it is a crime film in the vein of those by Tarantino or Kitano, and like those films, it motors with a beat that's both gritty and stoic. It is frank about both its violence and the commercial sex it depicts, and its story begins with a young yakuza named Tatsuo whose job is to procure and train prostitutes for the crooked, lascivious Senator Domon. After the violent demise of a prostitute dear to Tatsuo, the story begins to fork excitedly in new directions, part road movie, and part gangster film. The moral center of the film becomes Kantake, a Japanese-Peruvian immigrant to Japan who speaks badly broken Japanese and has a gentleness that's deceptive to the film's tough guys; when forced to use violence, he does, but only when necessary.
The movie is sometimes faintly, pleasantly elegiac, and if there's any flaw, it's that it often seems a bit labored, its execution lacking the confidence of its overall ambition. Still, it's rousing and original, and by the film's end, one is left with the impression of a poetic arc and a righteous anger.
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