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"Welcome to America, stinking Jap."
Shion Sono became a well-known entity in the United States with his Asianphobic film called Suicide Circle. Actually, for any Japanese director to have his name heard in the states, all one has to do is to cook up some disturbing stereotypes of Asian customs, and critics of lewd tastes will go for it. The problem with this is that, after a strong gust of oriental wind, there is little to no publicity in its aftermath. Take Takeshii Miike, people were cutting themselves up like Kakihara after Ichi the Killer hit, and then there was Gozu, Visitor Q, and many other deranged works. However, after a while, after we seem to "get it", we stop being interested. Miike is still making many films now, although he was gone away from shock value, and more into the realms of high-energy gangster-art films, which always seems to be ignored by people here for some odd reason.
This is what bothers me about the marketing for Asian cinema and for films like "Hazard", which in my opinion, is probably the coolest, slickest, realist Shion Sono film ever. No, "Suicide Circle" and "Strange Circus" will not hold a candle to this. "Hazard" is an entirely experimental and documentary film of Japan and America. Filmed in New York City, brimming with ridiculous amount of wit, testosterone and high energy, it's definitely miles away from the submissive screaming black-haired girls crawling out of kitchen toilets.
This film, I have to say, is Shion Sono's heart and grit coming out on screen. You get a man who isn't afraid of criticizing Japan, his own country, as he flees his land for new opportunities in America. Jo Odagiri, one of the best actors out there, takes up the role of Shin, an introverted extrovert, who is just fed up with Japan's Nyquil-induced society, feeling more and more like a robot each day, he could not handle the monotony. Instead, he ditches everything he knows, including his girlfriend, and runs to New York in search of "Hazard", as he puts it. Whatever "Hazard" is isn't told to us, only implied. It might be a new direction, a new place, a new way of living. When Shin and his gangster friends walks into a jazz club and performs a stick-up with a rifle, not only was it stark with a sense of brute class, but it holds a message within the bullets in the barrel. This is "Hazard", we live life by the gun, and die by the gun. It has a style that removes stereotypes, and only adds a statement, saying that Japan can do it as well as anyone. We're not afraid to wear the cowboy boots, the leather jackets, and we can do it better than you.
Jai West and Jo Odagiri proves that they are no joke in the film business, and their acting, and screen presence is a marvel to behold. It would only be a shame if you missed out.