Film review : 'Shinjuku Incident'.
Cast: Jackie Chan,Naoto TakenakaandDaniel Wu
Shinjuku Incident is not the kind of film that usually has Jackie Chan gracing the front cover.
There's no over-zealous mugging.
There's no frantic post-punch hand waving.
There's no accidental fight instigation.
There's no elaborately staged fight sequences and there's no mindless running about smashing into things (ok, there's a bit of that).
Instead there's brooding, crying,acting, realistic fighting, extreme violence, yakuza and sewer cleaning.
Shinjuku Incident allows Jackie Chan to give his best performance (as an actor) ever.
He's tried his hand at "harrowing" material before in New Police Story but even then there was still an unavoidably comic edge to his drunken trauma, just by virtue of the fact that it was Jackie Chan trying to act.
Fortunately, he's broken free of that stereotyping prison and escaped into what can only be a smart direction for his future career.
The story concerns Chan as an ex-farm worker travelling to Japan to find his lover whilst working with his family in menial jobs and dealing with the racist Japanese gangsters who inhabit Tokyo.
As the plot progresses, Chan gets deeper involved with the underworld and becomes embroiled in illegality, gradually working his way up through the ranks of the gangland.
Aside from Chan, the supporting cast is fantastic, with Derek Yee's protege Daniel Wu having to tackle a particularly distressing part.
Another welcome addition to the cast is the "Advanced Model" himself Masaya Kato Auplaying a Japanese mobster.
Daniel Wu has the hardest job, as his role requires him to run the gamut of as many varying emotions as possible.
He deals with them effectively and invites a sort of antipathy towards his complex character.
Kato also requires a kind of distorted understanding on behalf of the viewer as his betrayed gangster emits an element of compassion not usually seen with characters of this sort.
Aside from the fantastic performances, everything else (direction, cinematography, editing, set design, noodle preparation) seems to be in place.
Director Yee frames Japan in a favorable light which is refreshing as he could quite easily have depicted it as corrupt, seedy and more in line with the story of his film.
Instead he veers from stereotyping and forces the audience to make up their mind as to who the bad guys are.
So who are the bad guys? Well, there are no clear-cut goodies and baddies in this film and it's quite taxing to know who you should be rooting for.
You'd think that it'd be Jackie but he certainly does his fair share of bad deeds and is actually quite a thoughtless bastard in some scenes even if he does have his reasons.
Similarly, the Japanese have their own moral scruples with which to wrestle, thus projecting these same questions onto the audience.
If there are any problems with the film they're mostly down to the sometimes completely out-of-the-blue decisions that some of the characters take.
The main flaw seems to be when Daniel Wu decides to go all "To Wong Foo" on everybody and starts dressing like something out of a Japanese manga.
I understand the film's attempted depiction of where his character is going with his life but the look of Wu and his gang is more comical than corrupted.
Another flaw resides with Chan and his willingness to carry out certain orders from people he doesn't even know, to do things that are completely reprehensible.
We're given no insight into his thought process and his actions therefore come across unexpectedly shocking (although this could be the point).
Still, these gripes are mere scratches on the surface of what is a truly engrossing, complex and exciting thriller that never lets up from beginning to end.
It's a bristling exercise in moral decision-making and a fantastic example of stellar work from every area of the filmmaking process.
Watch it not only for a blistering performance by Chan but also for the fantastic work from the rest of the flawless cast.
I wouldn't be entirely surprised if Hollywood comes calling with a remake offer pretty soon but are we ready to see Jason Statham in a new light?
Kung Fu Cinem
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