Saturday, 16 September 2017
Friday, 8 September 2017
Takashi Miike brings his breathless V-Cinema flair to a video game adaptation, transforming Sega's long-running Yakuza series into a one-crazy-night movie set in a sweltering red-light district. Kazuki Kitamura plays Kiryu, an indefatigable brawler who has set himself the task of reuniting a street waif with her absent, mobbed up, mother. This search forms the backbone of the film, allowing Kiryu to cross paths with a variety of strange people on their own discursive adventures. It's not often a video game movie even attempts to translate its originator's mechanical make-up but Miike is happy to engage here, successfully tapping into the side-quest system of the PlayStation releases to power his own street-level Short Cuts.
This anthology approach keeps Kiryu present but once-removed, a force of nature who briefly disrupts and even alters the trajectory of people's lives - a young couple who witness Kiryu's louche, expert violence are inspired to turn to criminality themselves. The real fun in Like A Dragon though are the film's fight scenes. Miike and editor Yasushi Shimamura combine the propulsive, hand-held energy of a genre classic like Kinji Fukasaku's Street Mobster with the engorged, eye-catching visual language of interactive games. An early to-do in an overstocked discount store stands out thanks to Kitamura's ability to convincingly roll from opponent to opponent, trashing both his assailants and the towering bargains that encircle them. Kitamura's got a great look, decked out in a fitted grey suit with slicked back hair; the actor is able to convey both the noble centre of a do-gooder like Kiryu as well as the bullying, venomous streak that keeps him mired in this shady profession.
Friday, 1 September 2017
Unlike the plodding superhero serials Netflix is famous for, Adam Wingard's Death Note adaptation really moves, quickly churning through several successive stages of dramatic possibility offered by a dusty old book that allows its owner to instantly kill anyone, anywhere in the world. After taking delivery of the tome and chatting with Willem Dafoe's cackling demon, Nat Wolff's Light Turner uses this power over life and death to settle a number of personal scores, beginning with a recent slight from an oversized grade repeater then progressing to the ignominious destruction of the man who killed Light's mother.
These early passages of Death Note delight thanks to their aggressive lack of moral dimension. Aside from a weak, barely communicated plea for Christian forgiveness from Light's father, revenge (and then cosmic capital punishment) are organised using the petty principles of the high school loner. The film's deaths are gooey and amusing, using the sudden, Mouse Trap style mini-disasters seen in Richard Donner's The Omen or the Final Destination series to smuggle in the film's otherwise alarming extermination conceit whilst also presenting the incidents as an opportunity for a well-constructed, luridly shot gag.
Rather than tread water constructing increasingly elaborate murders, Death Note uses Margaret Qualley's Mia and Lakeith Stanfield's L to expand the film's conceptual boundaries. Mia pushes Light to broaden his horizons by aggressively punishing every level of human criminality. The resulting carnage is pointedly sloppy, the aftermaths woven in and around the film's eradication montages include all manner of bystanders, be they bunny girl sex workers or just hapless commuters. The couple are drunk on their power, delighting in not so much the mission but the way in which their actions are understood as those of a powerful, vengeful God.
Death Note uses these images of overseas destruction to draw a nagging visual connection between the impersonal violence of America's drone program and these two vengeful high-schoolers. Both are evidence of a stunning application of force coupled with spotty, perhaps even disinterested on-ground intelligence. Mia, in particular, relishes the slaughter, viewing it as something on-going and sustainable rather than Light's short but explosive fix. Stanfield's L is even better again, the actor deftly combining a combative physical fluidity with the pained, knowing expression of someone magnificent confronting the disappointingly messy patterns of his intellectual inferiors.