Sunday, 12th April '09
Bloody and Fantastic.
The Shinjuku Incident is the Best Film I've seen all year. Maybe that's not saying much because the only other two I've seen this year were "Australia" and "Confessions of a Shopaholic" (though I have to say I enjoyed both too).
Well you ain't never seen Jackie Chan like this and I do think this is a break out role. Neither his, nor Daniel Wu's acting in general were perfect, but there was an unmistakable level of commitment to the characters that never failed to impress. I must be shot for not knowing the names of the lead Japanese actors, but they did an admirable job too, and the supporting cast was simply brilliant.
Conceptually, a premise like this must make for a great story. Fleeing immigrant searches for the love of his life, tries to make a slightly dubious living filching Takashimaya goods and rigging pachinko machinese, and in the midst of protecting his people ends up embroiled in the dark world of the Japanese yakuza. Having rescued his people from harm, he leaves a wounded, angry "gang" brother to manage the territory and soon realises that the brother's trauma has changed him and the old "power corrupts" saying rings true.
Much bloody machete hacking, much flying body parts, much blood - much like Kill Bill, really, but so much more tasteful. Much dramatic ambience music, much effective cinematography. Much impressive language switching; I was really impressed with the seamless and utterly believable way the script weaved Mandarin, Japanese, Cantonese and Taiwanese into the dialogue, in that characteristic way that a creole language would form amongst immigrants in a foreign land. Even more so, the character development was impressive and so coherent, which is really quite a feat given the vast changes to some characters that had to be portrayed in the short span of two hours. Added to that some very literary moments, such as where the warm-fuzzy happiness of a roast chestnuts cart is juxtaposed against its potential use as a torture instrument at the hands of a vicious Taiwanese triad leader.
And it may sound silly, but even the SUBTITLES were well done. Everything was in proper English, translated tastefully (everyone has seen at least one cheap Taiwanese movie where a character says "tamade!" and the translator seems to think it fit to write the English words "sh*t motherf*cking c*cks*cker!" - which is just embarrassing) and in appropriate context. They even had the decency to write the Chinese names as just hanyu pinyin words and leave it as that (instead of trying to translate nicknames like "Lao Gui" to "Old Devil". Steelhead himself being one tolerable exception).
Some may not agree, but I venture to say that if it were not for the fact that Jackie Chan and Daniel Wu simply do not exude the presence of Tony Leung and Andy Lau, this movie could have been a hit beyond even Infernal Affairs. And I'd dare any Hollywood studio to try and make a remake of this which could bring across all that culture and spirit that this one did.
This movie makes me very proud to be Asian.
[well, the pictures aren't going to take themselves!]