In order to settle a business dispute, a mob leader murders one of his own teenage sons. The surviving son vows to avenge his brother's death, and organizes his own gang of teenage killers to destroy his father's organization.
Set on the island of Kyushu, it tells the story of successful high school student Riki Fudoh, who leads a double life in organized crime. With his gang of underage assassins (forerunners of the kiddie killers in Dead or Alive 2 (2000), including five-year-olds with hand guns and a teenage stripper shooting deadly darts from her vagina) he not only controls the goings-on at his school, but aspires to take over criminal affairs on the entire island. Fudoh's true motivations are not just a lust for power. An extensive flashback at the film's opening shows how as a child he witnessed the grisly murder of his older brother at the hands of his yakuza boss father and his subsequent wish for revenge. Buckets of blood flow (literally) when Riki and the kids start an assassination campaign against the top figures of the local yakuza, with his father as the ultimate goal. The underworld goes into a state of panic and calls in mysterious and powerful problem solver Nohma. Riki's father meanwhile ... Written by
Fudoh: The New Generation (1996) is Takashi Miike's film which introduced him to the Western audiences and film critics for the first time. After that, he's made many more films which have been shown on festivals and film clubs around the world. Fudoh is alongside Audition (1999) his masterpiece of his films that I've seen. Fudoh tells the story of young boy, Riki Fudoh, who one night sees how his father, a powerful Yakuza gangster, kills his own son, Riki's brother due to some Yakuza "ritual" as the father has to sacrifice something for the crimes he's made to the Yakuza. The Yakuza says that he can get away with the case by chopping his own arm off, but instead he wants to kill his son and bring his head to satisfy the Yakuza. From that day on, Riki seeks revenge for his father without showing it. He becomes the most intelligent student in his school and he forms his own criminal society to fight the old generation Yakuza with the help of some school friends. They include a huge long haired caricature of high school student who crushes everything under him, two cute Japanese girls, which both have some very nasty habits and "tools" and two 6-7 year old boys who commit the assassinations for Riki. Yes, the sentence you just read is true and this is a film by Takashi Miike.
I just love this film in its originality and seriousness. The film is completely over-the-top in some places without ever becoming too gratuitous or (un)intentionally funny, unless Miike wants so. He has the ability to use such symbolism (the ending of Dead or Alive (2000) etc.) that this ability alone would make him a very interesting film maker. Fudoh is a film about same themes as Dead or Alive as they both handle the subject matter of relationships between two men, who cannot quit or change their lethal attitudes and who are enemies but share many similar things. Even more, this film (and Dead or Alive, too) is about human psyche and about the line which appears on the screen at the beginning of the film, before the credits. Human is far more dangerous a beast than any beast we've known from the nature. The ending in Fudoh is very impressive, sudden and great and underlines the message and theme of the film as effectively as the mentioned opening line. This film is about us, but told in the form of a Yakuza drama, as Miike himself is a Japanese and thus Yakuza interests him as a subject matter in his films. Also, the film is about relationships (often gay oriented) between the Yakuza bosses and also relations between fathers and sons, and especially what kinds of things are expected from fathers once they make children. One very unborn "child" is spattered on the face of the huge long haired guy, and maybe that unborn human creature was happier not having to born in this world in the first place? Miike shows and asks us, and those who can or want, try to answer and think about the things in his films. I simply can't imagine a Takashi Miike film being empty in content.
Cinematically this film is very restrained, just like Dead or Alive's middle part after the explosive beginning and the surrealistically wild finale. There are some great images in Fudoh, like the one in which Riki "gets older" after witnessing the brutal murder of the brother, and there's also some beautiful and mythic lights visible, coming from windows etc. and all these things say much more than words ever could, especially when in most cases these lights appear soon after someone's been killed. Fudoh is almost as peaceful as Audition and it is great how the director changes the tones of his films from extremely calm and restrained, to more than wild and explosive. Audition is never wild or explosive, but Fudoh and Dead or Alive sure are. Takashi Miike's ability to handle his films so perfectly is among the things which make his films so unique and fantastic.
The characters in Fudoh are very personal and memorable. The criminals are evil and Riki's partners are crazy, but in a restrained way. The mentioned huge guy has to be seen to be believed, and also one dart wielding female assassin of Riki's is very unbelievable. Some of the violent scenes are very gory, like the poisoning of one Yakuza, which really is effective and grotesque to say the least! The assassinations are brutal and gory, but it all symbolizes the decay of the world as even little children are trained to kill and very effectively, too. None of the violence is exploitative, but some viewers may consider it too graphic and off-putting, but that is always the case with personal, unlimited and symbolic cinema.
Fudoh is very wonderful modern Japanese film and on the same level with the work of Takeshi Kitano, even though these are very different film makers. Equally brilliant and personal, but different in style and elements. Fudoh is Miike's masterpiece and I hope he has many more masterpieces to offer in his career. He has made so much films in such a short time, and all of those which I've managed to see are at least interesting and personal, if not quite masterpieces. Fudoh is among the 10/10 experiences.
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