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
a hilarious, violent romp and a yakuza take on Shakespearian themes, Fudoh is an unlikely Miike classic
Fudoh: The New Generation was Takashi Miike's first cross-over success in the West (whether in America or just on the festival circuit I can't say), and it's no wonder- it's the perfect calling card, a work of ferocious energy and sincerity with comedy and drama, extreme violence and heart, kitsch and the bizarre. A lot of things that one would expect to find in the given Miike yakuza can be found here in spades: a blood battle involving brothers, the corrupt old incumbent yakuza, the vicious and surreal thugs out to get their just deserts, and of course in style with carefully composed shots and startlingly edited scenes of action, with deliberate scenes of dialog and actors staring at one another. It shouldn't work, but it does, and to a point that had me laughing, gasping, and sure that even if things worked out "alright" (and alright in the sense of a bloody tale of twisted revenge) it would leave a lasting impression, long after seeing nearly a couple dozen other Miike films.
It's emotional core, for one thing, is exceptional for a Miike film, which helps in springing out the demented comedy, as unlikely as that is. A yakuza kills one of his sons to pay a debt to a gangster- a debt which he crazily relishes as he plants his son's head on the table and laughs maniacally- leaving the living son completely bewildered but swearing on his late brother's honor. Cut to ten years later, as the father barely acknowledges he ever had another son, and Riki Fudoh is now gathering up a small army of outcast teens like him (one girl who can shoot out darts from her privates, little kids with handguns, a big huge lummox who killed his parents, and a hermaphrodite, cause, why the hell not) to get payback by killing off as many yakuza as possible. Crazy? It just might work, after the vicious, grotesque deaths of four council members (the car scene especially is vintage Miike).
You don't have to be completely queued to the artistic aesthetic Miike had with Gozu, or always have a smile on your face ala Katakuris, but Fudoh marks its place in the upper-level of the director's oeuvre by allowing for the low-budget cast to shine through. This goes for scenes that could, by any other director, be deemed unnecessary or even just cruel (i.e. the death of one of the girls by the hands of the North Korean killer Fudoh Sr hires to kill his son, and the hermaphrodite sex scene). In Miike's hands, he treats them like it SHOULD be considered art, not simply exploitation of genre or going for dopey extremes with exit wounds and vaginas. And it is, for those who want it, a success as a comedy, one that allows you to laugh your head off at the kinds of things that would give the squeamish nightmares for weeks. And for those looking for a work that goes even further than Hamlet, here it is!
And, of course, where would a great Miike flick be without a sneering Riki Takeuchi? It's a lot of fun and a truly substantial dramatic effort too, and it's not a bad place to go if you're just getting into the director's elephantine body of very contemporary work.
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