Kaiji: Jinsei gyakuten gêmu
is a movie starring
Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ken'ichi Matsuyama, and Tarô Yamamoto.
Kaiji, a young gambler who is constantly in debt, enters a deadly gambling competition in order to wipe away his loans.
Kaiji erased all of his debts in the first movie. A year later, he's back in the same debt ridden situation. Kaiji then gets a chance to clear himself of his 200 million Yen debt, but he has only 2 weeks.
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Kaiji Ito moves to Japan after graduating from high school. Unable to find a job and frustrated with society at large, Kaiji spends his days gambling, vandalizing cars, and drinking booze. Two years later and his life no better, a debt collector named Endo arrives to collect money. The debt collector then offers two choices to Kaiji: spend 10 year paying off your loan or board a gambling boat for one night to repay your debt and possibly make a whole lot more. Meanwhile, the unscrupulous Endo is actually conning Kaiji, believing he won't come back from voyage. Kaiji is then up for the night of his life.Written by
The problem with this movie is that it has to compact the material of 13 volumes of manga into a 2 hour long movie. The very format forced some of 'Kaiji's strongest points to lose much of its impact, namely the gambling aspect of what is a very brainy and interesting manga. The movie cuts down on the mental gymnastics that make Kaiji able to beat the odds in a believable way. As a result the viewer cannot quite grasp his genius as everything is edited to the point of losing coherence. The manga is plotted in such a way as to cover several arcs, each with its own crazily high stakes and particular flavor. The movie cannot frame a transition of the moments of the narrative without coming undone at the seams.
Some choices in the adaptation were odd such as changing Endou's gender and changing the order of some events and there are other changes that may seem minor on the surface but end up diluting the tense do-or-die atmosphere that had readers of the manga flipping the pages anxiously and sitting at the edge of their seats. Such as the terrifying ear perforation device or the finger guillotine, both if which are completely absent in the movie.
Kaiji's inner dialog is hyped mostly as an emotional appeal without the counterbalancing effect of his quick mind. The manga's eponymous hero is known for bursting into tears rather often but he remains a very clever young man whose gambles have plenty of reasoning behind them, the movie shows us only flashes of this. It is also unfortunate that some of the more intense moments of the 'Kaiji' saga take place in material that is not covered by the movie.
The acting is solid, namely Fujiwara who plays Kaiji flawlessly, a completely different role of Death Note's Light that first introduced me to him. Having a woman playing a loan shark lends itself to romantic vibes but these never materialize.
Fans of the manga may enjoy seeing Kaiji in 3D but this movie does not match the brilliance of the original work.
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