Playing in Yakuza Hell is Dangerous, a DVD review

28 Jan

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

why-dont-you-play-in-hell-posterForget trying to get praise from Quentin Tarantino, filmmaker Takashi Miike might want to put his support into Shion Sono’s (Suicide Club, Love Exposure) action comedy Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (地獄でなぜ悪い) that will be arriving in video stores and video on demand January 28th.

This over-the-top gonzo madcap film features Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) as an aspiring guerilla style filmmaker intent on making a masterpiece ala Bruce Lee’s Game of Death with his film club. Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) is cast into the yellow jump-suit leading role, and Kill Bill this movie is not. To make a film within a film about two feuding Yakuza clans is a fun approach to see how Hirata’s movie crew stumble into a gang war. To see what transpires next is hilarious, like it was lifted from a Japanese cartoon, and the fallout is not without some classic moments taken from traditional theater.

Crime bosses Muto (Jun Kunimura) and Ikegami (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi) are coping with mutual losses. After Muto’s wife Shizue (Tomochika) gets tossed into jail defending him (when he’s busy having relations with someone else) and daughter, Mitsuko (Fumi Nikaidô) loses a TV commercial contract, life’s been boring. Ikegami has an interest in Muto’s daughter, and that’s very problematical. Even 10 years later, this kendo warrior pines away like a lost puppy, and that leads to issues. Just how can he explain his feelings for her to his rival?

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There is a story to be found in this film that tries to be coherent. As with any subtitled film, trying to keep up with the fast-paced visuals with dialogue is not always easy. And not all of the story centers on Hirata although it tries. In this crazy Shakespearian subplot about rival clans, just what can be done to bring peace to their little part of Tokyo must be solved. To see how these two crime families end up mending fences shows that Sono has his heart in the right place, if not strange one when considering how this movie ends.

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Although this film has a quiet purpose, the goal is in how this film’s title comes into play. Hirata enters a war zone, and the toll it takes upon this filmmaker pretty much sums up how the uninitiated will come out of a victory. Was he mad to begin with? Just what kind of sacrifices must he make to make the greatest film? Perhaps, with this movie, imitating Zack Synder’s formula ala 300 is not necessarily bad. This film just needs a point so it can come to a tidy wrap. To figure that out really means trying to get into Hirata’s mind, and with the video release, it can be replayed until his motives are figured out.

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