I have lost my reading mojo for the whole of June and I have read only three books this month. I’m not wondering if this will pick up or not as I have too much in my mind to do any intense reading. Watching movie, however, takes less brain work for now!
Before you think this is another kungfu-flick, hold that thought! I don’t usually watch gangsta-Yakuza movies but I am willing to give Shinjuku Incident a go because of Jackie Chan.
Do not expect this to be a kung fu action film because in this movie Jackie Chan can’t do kung-fu. He does what other mobsters do in the far east, shoot with a gun or stab with a knife. For those who thinks Jackie Chan can’t act, he can. This film is the proof.
The film is produced by Jackie Chan’s production house and is a cautionary tale about the dangers and tribulations of being an illegal immigrant in the land of Japan.
Before China surpassed Japan to become the second biggest economy in the world, in the late 1980’s up to early 1990’s, there were many Chinese who made their way across the sea and work illegally in Japan.
Jackie Chan played a tractor mechanic nicknamed Steelhead enters Japan from China in search of his fiancée, Xiu-Xiu (Xu Jinglei) with the help of his “brother” Jie (Daniel Wu) from the same village. Jie has taught Steelhead how to make a living by teaching him the trades of the underworld. One day, while illegally working as part of a clean-up crew in the sewers, Steelhead and his Chinese comrades are spotted by the police. Not willing to get caught, Steelhead and the others run for their lives. In the ensuing turn of events, Steelhead saves Detective Kitano (Takenaka Naoto) from drowning, and in gratitude, Kitano decides to stop pursuing Steelhead.
One night, while working in a restaurant with Jie, Steelhead finds his fiancée, Xiu-Xiu with Yakuza leader Eguchi (Masaya Kato). The Yakuza (Japanese mobster), runs a hierarchical system of elders and district leaders. The Yakuza has its influence that stretches across to politics, film industry and business. Eguchi faces his own issues as the son of the leader is plotting with the outsiders (Taiwanese gang who dominates one part of Tokyo) to finish him off.
Jie (Daniel Wu) was unlucky and got caught in a situation where he was punished severely by the Taiwanese gang, for things he didn’t do. This torture scene was the most gory and bloody scene of the movie, I literally walked away from the screen and came back after the torture is over.
There were strong casts from both Japan and China / HK. I thought the lead baddies and the goodies all look really good on movie. There was at least 3 different Chinese languages and dialects spoken in the movie (Mandarin, Cantonese and Taiwanese), a scene of a Japanese interpreter who could only speak Mandarin was at loose end when the illegal immigrants couldn’t understand him, reminds the outsiders that the Chinese in China do not necessarily speak the same language.
In such adrenaline pumping, testosterone-charged movie it could only be expected that the women casts take a back seat. Xiu-Xiu (Xu Jinglei) played the supportive Japanese wife to Eguchi. Lily (Fan Bingbing) was like Steelhead’s love interest, who own a bar. They both play their traditional roles in a man’s world in the movie.
This is the first time I am introduced to Takenaka Naoto and Kato Masaya. The most memorable character was Daniel Wu (as Jie) as Nick’s younger brother. The movie sees Jie from the cheerful, happy-go-lucky roasted chestnut peddler into a downward spiral that ends with him being a mere haunted ghost and drugged-out shell of his former self.
The characters all started out as hopeful, positive and happier individuals only to find themselves involuntarily corrupted, compromised their values and principles for survival in a foreign land.
However, due to significant amounts of violence in the film, director Yee made a conscious decision not to release the film in mainland China. China does not have a film classification system, so films are released for all audiences. Yee considered toning down or cutting the violence in order to pass censorship, but felt it would hurt the integrity of the film. Chan, who was an investor in the film, agreed with Yee’s decision. The movie was released to a mixed review with some harsh critics coming from Jackie Chan’s home ground Hong Kong.
There were a lot of complicity, deceit, actions, comradeship and regrets in this crime, action drama, thriller multi-genre of a movie. The harsh and dirty conditions of work that the illegal immigrants do in Japan was sad and painful to watch. Whether you typecast Jackie Chan or not, I think this is a movie worth watching. Ambiguous characters with moral conflict and tough decisions to take, this movie stayed for a long time in my mind.
One other review see: Yakuza film review
I watched this on the 8th June 2013 Saturday.