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Nihon kuroshakai (1999)

 -  Crime | Drama | Thriller  -  22 May 1999 (Japan)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 836 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 31 critic

A group of Chinese youths living in Japan struggle to make their way in life and eventually find trouble with the local crime syndicate.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Shô Aikawa
Samuel Pop Aning
Takeshi Caesar
Yukie Itou
Michisuke Kashiwaya
Kazuki Kitamura
Dan Li ...
Anita / Chinese prostitute
Ryûshi Mizukami
Ren Ohsugi
Shun Sugata
Tomorowo Taguchi
Kôji Tsukamoto
Tetsu Watanabe
Hua Rong Weng
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Storyline

A group of Chinese youths living in Japan struggle to make their way in life and eventually find trouble with the local crime syndicate.

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Genres:

Crime | Drama | Thriller

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Release Date:

22 May 1999 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Ley Lines  »

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1.85 : 1
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Connections

Follows Shinjuku kuroshakai: Chaina mafia sensô (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

 
it's not as fun as some of Miike's other thrillers, but it is bleaker, more serious, a real "film" that works excellently on its own terms
19 August 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

It's strange: while I would probably much rather watch one of the more insane and, by virtue of reputation, more popular works repeatedly from Takashi Miike like Ichi the Killer or Visitor Q, a film like Ley Lines or Graveyard of Honor are probably technically better made "films", and is a wonderful but harsh reminder of how dedicated an artist Miike can be with the right material. Ley Lines is dark and depressing and about alienation and filmed often with a detached and unflinching eye on the plight of its young Chinese outsiders. It's also at times, not too unusually for Miike, strange and random and violent and with bits of deranged sex (here, as in other Japanese films, blurred out amusingly with blue lightning). I knew watching it I should've found some of the choices Miike made almost too detached or too pretentious or too stark with its depiction of some kind of reality. But by the end, I didn't care, in a sense.

That sense really has to do with connection with the bulk of the director's stylistic choices and the characters who with only a little development appear fully realized (or at least sympathetic as the lost and tortured souls of this story). It's about three Chinese guys who leave their blasé suburban lives and go to Tokyo, where they're soon robbed blind by a prostitute. Ironically, and in what is at first irony and then becomes a minor tragedy, the prostitute's Chinese currency doesn't fare at all with her nasty pimp and her other call duties are ugly at best and revolting (or just plain twisted underground crap) at worst, and she ends up back with them by an odd twist of fate. The Chinese youths go through some unsuccessful motions, like selling an ether-esquire drug, before one decides that it's time to leave this dreadful Tokyo landscape: Brazil. A heist is plotted, and executed, but with (somewhat) typical fatalistic results.

Miike seems to be experimenting, but at times in subtle gestures with the camera and lighting that suggest perhaps his own questioning of himself and his skills as opposed to just what the script requires. It's an exhilarating mix-and-match; early on we get that rushing bravura of the variety where we get put into the rush and vibrancy of youth with the camera tracking unevenly along as they ride bikes or gliding in a long take across the train station into the train car. Then, in Tokyo, sometimes a shot will just last a while on something and Miike won't cut if something violent or action-like is happening right in the next room (in these instances the cut-away to a close-up, or the emphasis on leaving a spot, becomes paramount). And last by not least Miike tries a red filter in the bulk of the frame, adding some crazy but always interesting effect to scenes like the one kid running through the streets to get back to his friend whom somehow he knows is beat up, or in the scenes towards the end (not to mention that very random but affecting moments with that man in the underground room requesting stories from Shanghai girls- very specifically those girls- and a fish somehow makes its way into the inter-cutting of a story).

On top of this, Miike's actors, most of whom I've never seen much of before with only one (Shoi Aikawa) I can recognize immediately, are all top shelf talents seemingly without doing much most of the time. It's after the heist, of course, that their chops are tested even more, and it's hard not to get caught up emotionally or feel frazzled as the one kid goes on about childhood memories and his mother in the back of the car. Somehow against all of the possible pit-falls of being ironically showy with his attempts at depicting these alienated people and the dregs of society (the real criminals here are go-for-broke evil people, including an oddball African) Miike makes the themes and ideas stand out excellently. In the 'art-film' sensibility, in fact, his compositions are incredible, and his control of fluctuating mood matches that of something out of the French new-wave, comparisons to Bande a part not-withstanding.

So, in short, don't watch it if you're expecting a Dead-or-Alive or a Gozu. This is serious film-making about tragic and lost souls, with only some (chilling) slices of the wild-man Japanese director we all know and love in some circles.


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