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Japan 1996
Directed by
Takashi Miike
98 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
4 stars

Fudoh: The Next Generation

Synopsis: Riki Fudoh (Shosuke Tanihara) witnesses the death of his brother at the hands of his Triad leader father. Bitter with anger he pulls together his own gang to destroy his father's organisation, using his daytime life as a schoolboy to cover his tracks.

From the moment a succession of gangsters are brutally murdered by a group of school children you know you are in Takashi Miike territory, acid is thrown, guns are fired and poison darts are fired from a certain part of a young girls anatomy; all executed with childish glee. The juveniles even play soccer with a victim's severed head.

Beneath the film's deranged surface, however, is a story of honour, suicide and vengeance. And as the name Miike is attached you know that the plot will twist at every opportunity. Using the children as assassins is a masterstroke. As they help their leader come to power everything you think you know about the Triad movie is turned on its severed head. Suddenly the sweet and cute image of the child is turned into a demonic avenger.

The lead role of Riki Fudoh, played with stoic grace by Shosuke Tanihara, a teenager himself, is excellent. Full of dilemmas and out for revenge his brother's murder, the grim determination that Tanihara brings to the role is positively venomous. The performances by the younger children are also very good. The set pieces as they kill Fudoh's enemies are the meat of the film but the quieter passages lend a sinister sense of forbidding.

Most viewers, however, will remember Fudoh for the cute female assassin with the penchant for hitching up her skirt at the merest hint of danger, using propulsive talents that would make a Bangkok showgirl blush. Even then there is more to her than meets the eye and her final revelation is shockingly bizarre. As with the majority of Japanese fare of this kind, the violence is graphic but the sex is suggestive and Miike plays these potentially shocking moments with great humour. Little of the in-your-face offensiveness of Ichi the Killer or Audition is present here. Yes, it is gory but the premise and the over-the-top situations lighten the load. Having said that, the samurai-themed finale is grim and the blood-soaked denouement will leave few unmoved.

Takashi Miike is still producing a huge number of films a year. After a barnstorming start the quality threshold has lowered slightly, his recent gangster epic Gozu confounding most who watched it. The film was bookended by two amazing sequences that had to be seen to be believed but the rest of the film was interminably drawn-out. Fudoh: The Next Generation on the other hand never lets up; it's a non-stop parade of juvenile carnage and is definitely a great starting point for anyone wishing to enter Miike's weird and warped worldview.

 

 

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