2014 Japanese hip-hop musical
Plot: Gangs fight each other while rapping.
This is a little like a modern Japanese West Side Story with rapping and a lot more violence and nudity, and if that sounds like your sort of thing, you'll probably find something to like in this messy movie. The gangs, so flashy and stylish that you almost have to laugh, are about as realistic as the snapping and strutting Jets and Sharks. My main issue with this--and the reason it was exhausting enough that I had to watch the thing in three installments--is because it's very dialogue heavy and, as an non-traditional traditional musical, almost every line is sung. With hip-hop, it seems like there are twice as many lyrics anyway, so this ended up being a lot of reading for me. And that's unfortunate because visually, there were a lot of interesting things going on. Most of the movie is very obviously filmed on a stage, something else it has in common with West Side Story, but the camera maneuvers through all this action and all these characters in exciting ways. One scene that takes place in a red room and features nearly-naked people acting as furniture, looks like Peter Greenaway may have been a consultant. Fight scenes and hordes of characters are filmed in exhilarating ways, and at times, the cinematography reminded me a little of Gaspar Noe's work. There are also some virtuoso long shots in this thing including a terrific one to start things. In fact, if you do decide to watch this, I'd recommend you don't bother trying to follow any plot or look for any characters to latch onto and just appreciate the visuals and the beats. There's not much of a story here anyway, and the amount of characters can be a little frustrating. Of course, I wouldn't want to eliminate any characters because the auxiliary characters are a lot of fun in this, especially a beat-boxing waitress and a kung-fu-fightin' little person. Throw in a little blood, allusions to cannibalism, and an elderly DJ, and you've got yourself something that is at the very least always interesting even when it starts to feel redundant.
This is my first exposure to the director Sion Sono. He's the director of Love Exposure, a movie pretty high on my must-see list. I'm intrigued after watching this one.