Crazy Thunder Road


"First of all, this movie is ultra low-budget. Not low-budget in a good, "Mad Max" kind of way, but low-budget in an amateurish, "Manos: Hand of Fate" (of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" infamy) kind of way. "

- Joe909

Crazy Thunder Road (1980)

Director: Sogo Ishii

Cast: Tatsuo Yamada, Masamitsu Oike, Toshiji Kobayashi, Koji Nanjo

Running Time: 90 min.

Plot: Jin, an antagonistic youth, tries to take over a motorcycle gang once its leader, Ken, announces he's going to retire and settle down with his girlfriend. But things aren't so easy for Jin. The other gangs have united, and decide that Jin's reckless ways are a thing of the past, so they band together to take him and his four followers out. Add in a group of militaristic "Ultra-Righters," and you have what amounts to a Japanese version of "Mad Max," with a bit of "A Clockwork Orange" and a whole lot of boredom thrown in.


JOE909'S REVIEW: As of this writing, I'm 27 years old, and I've realized through the wisdom of age that one shouldn't get too excited to see a movie; you're generally bound to be let down by it, if you do. Well, after reading a tremendously positive review for Crazy Thunder Road on a year ago, I got so excited to see this movie that I've spent the past twelve months searching for it. I envisioned an apocalyptic, balls-to-the-wall, pure rock n' roll action extravaganza. What I got was just your basic, tedious, talky Japanese film.

I've never liked Japanese movies. Matter of fact, I hate most of them. This isn't just a thoughtless hatred. I lived in Japan for a time, spent a few semesters of college there, and also studied the language throughout high school and part of college itself. Throughout these periods I watched many Japanese movies, in order to gain a better understanding of the language and culture. Other than "Tetsuo 2," every damn movie I saw was a dud. Boring, slow-paced, high on exposition and low on action, Japanese movies just left me unsatisfied. Until I saw "Versus," which will hopefully act like an opening shot for Japanese movies of the future: it has everything Japanese movies typically lack, and it's everything Crazy Thunder Road should've been. But this review isn't about "Versus," so if you want my thoughts on that one, check out the review.

First of all, this movie is ultra low-budget. Not low-budget in a good, "Mad Max" kind of way, but low-budget in an amateurish, "Manos: Hand of Fate" (of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" infamy) kind of way. Herky-jerky direction, cheesily-overdubbed dialog, and occasionally-bland acting. The writing's helter-skelter, too. Only the English subtitles look professional, but they're funny in that they primarily use British slang. For example, main character Jin (possibly the most unlikeable lead character since that punk in the Ô90s "Dennis the Menace" movie) at one point calls his foes a "bunch of tossers." But back to the low budget. The ending features what's supposed to be a climactic showdown between Jin and his oppressors. It features Jin in what looks like a Power Rangers suit made of leather (with humongous, football-type shoulder pads) blowing things apart with a rocket launcher. Meanwhile, all he's really shooting are flares. Seriously. There aren't even any explosions, just a lot of smoke. Plus, when people shoot guns, not even the barest of a spark comes out of the barrel. I know this is coming off as picky, but I was wondering, why bother? If you can't afford to film a huge, rocket-launching conclusion, then film another damn type of ending. As it is, I've seen more realistic depictions of action in "The A-Team."

But that's just the ending. To get there, you have to sit through multiple scenes of leather-clad motorcycle punks talking about how bad things are, what with the unionization of biker gangs and all. They'll talk about it a bit, then talk about it some more. Then they'll drive around for a while, then they'll talk some more. There's even an atrocious scene in which Ken and his girlfriend relate their feelings for one another in a musical montage. As if we're suddenly watching "Grease." Of course, there's also the traditional scene of torture that Japanese filmgoers apparently demand: Jin's best friend (and possible lover, though it's never directly stated) gets caught by rival bikers and beaten to a bloody death.

Jin attempts to take revenge for his friend's death, and gets beaten badly in the process. He's saved by the appearance of the "Ultra-Righters," former bikers who've gone on to become Japanese Nazis. They take in Jin and his three surviving friends and proceed to reprogram the hell out of them. Soon enough Jin's wearing a military uniform and passing out leaflets on the streets. But after a confrontation with a group of his former, biker enemies, Jin realizes that the military life isn't for him. He bails out, much to the dismay of the apparently-gay leader of the Ultra-Righters, and takes back to his motorcycle. Not even five minutes back out on the street, and Jin's attacked by his former adversaries, who chop off his arm with a chainsaw (this isn't shown, just implied.) After recuperating in the hospital, Jin limps back to his bike, wearing (hilariously), a cast that covers his entire arm. I mean, if his arm was chopped off, why does he need a full cast? They could've at least tied the actor's arm to his side, and hidden it under his shirt, or something.

Jin comes across a prepubescent brat who works for an old gun dealer. This is the guy who supplies Jin with a rocket launcher and the Kamen Rider meets Mad Max outfit (which isn't as cool as it sounds). Jin of course unleashes merciless revenge upon both the Ultra-Righters and the bikers, taking at least a dozen bullets in the process. I'm guessing Jin's outfit is bullet-proof, as these bullets unfortunately don't kill him. Instead, he staggers away from the carnage, hops on his bike, and drives off "El Cid" style into the sunset, mercifully ending the movie. At least it wasn't too long.

JOE909'S RATING: 4/10