Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Seishu Hase (novel), Ichiro Ryu
Cast: Teah, Michelle Reis, Patricia Manterola, Mitsuhiro Oikawa, Koji Kikkawa, Ren Osugi, Akaji Maro, Anatoli Krasnov, Sebastian DeVicente, Terence Yin, Atsushi Okuno, Akira Emoto, Eugene Nomura, Marcio Rosario, Ryushi Mizukami
Running Time: 99 min.
Tarantino haters take note: Asian cinema is now ripping-off your whipping boy. QT is always scorned for “lifting” scenes, images, and plots from Asian action movies; now that same scorn can be directed back at the East. Of course, the QT bashers will never do this; in their hypocrisy they’ll just say that Tarantino’s getting what he deserves, or they’ll go to absurd lengths to explain away any and all similarities between these movies and his.
I present to you City of Lost Souls, aka Hazard City, which not only plot-wise is a direct lift of QT’s superior “True Romance,” but also is nearly a scene-by-scene reconstruction of the film. However, whereas the two leads in “True Romance” are likeable, down-and-outers who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the male and female leads in Hazard City (Teah as Mario, and Michelle Reis looking fantastic as Kei) are too cool for words, and willingly put themselves in dangerous positions.
Like “True Romance,” these two share a wild and crazy love, and will go to great lengths for each other. There’s also the requisite goons and gangsters whom they interact with, and the old steal-a-bag-that-turns-out-to-contain-a-shitload-of-cocaine gag. Just like Clarence and Alabama, Mario and Kei decide to sell the coke and make off to a better life. As in both films, things don’t go as planned.
The most obvious filmic theft in City of Lost Souls occurs during a standoff between a pair of yakuza thugs and a group of Chinese triads. The triad boss relates a story about how the Chinese tried to educate an “island of monkeys in the East” in the ways of the Chinese, but the “monkeys,” (aka the Japanese) just couldn’t get it. This story causes both parties to laugh crazily, before guns are drawn. A bullseye rip-off of the infamous scene between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper in “True Romance.” It’s just not as good here, or as effective.
But beyond all the nit-picking, City of Lost Souls isn’t so bad a movie. It has a modern-day fairy tale quality (jumping safely out of helicopters without parachutes, magical tattoos), just like “True Romance” did (woops, there’s another comparison); but TR got it right by living up to that fairy tale aspect and giving us a happy ending (in the film, at least, but also bear in mind that in QT’s script, Alabama survived). City of Lost Souls goes the downer route, which is just becoming tired and outdated these days. I don’t know why so many screenwriters think it’s “shocking” and “unique” to kill off main characters in the last act. I guess they think it will make them seem like original filmmakers. It doesn’t.
That being said, there are some cool moments in this movie. The CGI cockfight is so stupid it’s great, and the many action scenes are slick and well-made. Unfortunately, they just don’t last very long, and the actor playing Mario doesn’t look comfortable holding a gun. He’s got the look and the attitude, but he just can’t carry it off. Michelle Reis, however, is pure badass, and the part where she lights some poor sap on fire is probably the film’s highlight.
There are several gunfights (one of which ends with an unexpected game of ping-pong), old-fashioned beatdowns aplenty, and a few one-liners. There’s also a cool bit of caprioera, as several Brazilians try to take out Mario, but director Miike cops out by not letting us see the fight itself. I wouldn’t consider City of Lost Souls to be a straight-up action film, though. It’s more of a post-modern “offbeat gangster” sort of flick, with a mishmash of languages and the occasional, grotesque image. This is of course required, this being a Japanese film; I think it’s written somewhere that all Japanese movies must have at least one gross-out factor. In the case of City of Lost Souls, it’s a few pieces of shit floating in a toilet as some guy gets his head dunked in. Scatology for the sake of scatology, it’s totally unnecessary.
A last word: the Hong Kong dvd release is one of those “Side A” and “Side B” deals. This means that once you get halfway through the movie, you have to flip the disc over and continue watching. It’s like regressing back to the days of laserdiscs, and it annoys the hell out of me.
Joe909′s Rating: 7.5/10
City of Lost Souls was my first venture into the crazy and fucked up mind of Takashi Miike. After hearing so much about the guy for such a long time, I was eagerly excited to check out one of his films; although, IMO, I was somewhat let down with the film, but I knew there would be a lot more to see from Miike. Granted, nothing beats the midget overdosing on the bench, the odd POV shot inside of a toilet, jumping out of a helicopter and surviving, and of course, two guys hanging out and falling in love. Awww, isn’t that sweet? While the film was entertaining, I was expecting more after hearing about Ichi, Audition, and of course, the DOA trilogy. It’s not to say anybody else will hate CoLS, just make sure you don’t watch it thinking you’ll experience something along the lines of Ichi The Killer. Just think of CoLS as True Romance Lite, minus Elvis fucking and Gary Oldman.
Loonieweed’s Rating: 6.5/10