"Based on a manga, Crows Zero will appeal to people looking for the school-yard fight equivalent to 300."
Crows Zero (2007)
AKA: Crows 0, Crows: Episode 0, Crows: Episode Zero
Director: Takashi Miike
Producer: Mataichiro Yamamoto
Cast: Shun Oguri, Kyosuke Yabe, Takayuki Yamada, Shunsuke Daito, Meisa Kuroki, Tsutomu Takahashi, Goro Kishitani
Running Time: 131 min.
Plot: Takashi Miike's live action film, based on the mega-hit comic CROWS. Transfer student Genji attempts to take over Suzuran Boys High School from a rival yough guy with the help of an old boy yakuza.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
NINGEN'S REVIEW: A new kid in town named Genji enrolls in a "bad" school where he meets a thug named Tamao who runs the place. Aspiring to head his own yanki[Japanese JD] empire, in order to impress his yakuza pop, Genji challenges Tamao for his position. However, since he's up against a formidable army, he has to beat and win over the factions under Tamao's control, in order to have some back-up for his final match. Whether by fist or communication, Genji slowly builds his own army against Tamao.
Based on a manga, Crows Zero will appeal to people looking for the school-yard fight equivalent to 300. While that's not the only thing going on in the movie, that pretty much sums up what you can expect. Genji does have a potential love interest whose girlfriends he tries to use to win over one of his rivals. But she's mostly there for the bad, but "motivational", country hip-hop montage. Otherwise, she's just the obligatory comic relief and eye candy in a sea of sausage. Genji also has a "confidante" in the form of a Barney Fife-like yakuza who's trying to re-live his youth through Genji while trying to stop a war between his "family" and Genji's "family". Ken also teaches Kenji what it takes to be an Alpha Male.
While I generally enjoy the laguid direction of Crows Zero, it suffers from too many supporting characters and subplots. Each different yanki punk has different motivations for their actions. And while that does give some depth to the overall story, it also takes away the impact from the beat-downs, since the focus tends to shift to other issues, such as Tamao's buddy being in the hospital. I know the whole point of the movie is to suggest that there's more to life than being Top Dog, but the ending which segues into the inevitable sequel undermines that argument, since Genji still continues to spar with others.
So the real glue which holds the movie together is the metal soundtrack which sounds like a Japanese imitation of the South Park guys' musical parodies played straight. The rock basically sums up how the characters feel, so they don't have to do it themselves, and they can just get to the bruising. The fights themselves range from brutal to absurdly melodramatic. Every (stereo)type of Japanese gang is thrown into the mix, and they basically just pound away at each other, usually as dirtily as possible. It does get boring after a while, but it doesn't lose its impact. I just wish the action was a bit faster, and less "busy" with all the extras on-screen. But if you need a "leave your brain at the door" flick, you can't grow wrong with Crows Zero.
NINGEN'S RATING: 8/10 for the small fights, 6.5/10 for the big fights, 6/10 for the pointless side-stories, and 7.5/10 for the overall entertainment value