Every so often a film comes along that just breaks your heart… and then there are films like this one that hit you in the head like an aluminum baseball bat. The U.S. may have produced David Lynch and John Waters and Canada may have produced David Cronenberg and Guy Maddin, but Japan has Takashi Miike. He started late in life as a feature director but he’s made up for lost time by making nine films and counting since 1995. “Fudoh” is a rather successful and quite demented attempt to produce a live-action version of a Japanese Manga comic by Hiroshi Tanemara.
In this world, violence begets violence which begets a whole lot more violence. We open innocently enough with young Riki Fugoh playing catch with his beloved brother Ryu. The entire family, however, is yakuza. After Ryu retaliates for the actions of the rival Nioh gang, the boys’ dad kills Ryu to save his own neck. Young Riki, is not amused.
Ten years later, Riki (Shosuke Tanihara) is the smartest, best-looking kid in his high school. He also runs the place with the aid of his own gang comprised of fellow students. With the aid of eight-year-old hit men and schoolgirl strippers and assassins, it looks like Riki could have his revenge on the anniversary of his brother’s death, but dear old dad may not go down so easily.
Shock value and native Japanese weirdness aside, this is a great movie. It looks great. Whatever the content, each shot is carefully composed and the action is often so manic it can be had to keep up with. As unemotional as the Japanese can be, “Fudoh” turns into the nastiest family squabble since “Medea”. The parenting skills of the eldest Fudoh make Christopher Walken in “At Close Range” look like father of the year.
Still, the most notable aspect is that just when you think the film can’t get any weirder, it’s just getting started. Murders are often accompanied by rivers of blood. The scenes in the children’s assassin training camp are hysterical. I lost count on the number of decapitations.
While this is a film about kids, it’s definitely not for kids. Director Miike may be better known for his surreal yakuza films and his greater exercises in strangeness, but the only difference with “Fudoh” is really one of style. As much attention is given to Takeshi Kitano, it’s Takashi Miike who will be the force to remember in America within a few years.