Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Face the Reality – Shinjuku Incident

This is not a typical “Jackie Chan Movie”, but a typical “Derek Yee Movie”. If you have paid attention to Hong Kong movies in the “drama” category before, you should definitely know this name. Yee’s products vary from romantic, gangster to political stuff, but the focus is always the inner side of human beings, esp. from Asians’ (or actually I should say, Chinese) points of view.

The story about the struggling and tragedy of illegal immigrants in Japan is quite similar to the masterpiece of Japanese director Iwai Shunji (most famous of Love Letter in Asia), Swallowtail Butterfly (Also named Yentown). Compared to the Japanese counterpart, Yee is definitely a lucky guy – After more than one decade, China has risen to a more comparable position to Japan in the economy area, hence he can claim at the end of the movie that “all has passed”. And that also gave Yee the freedom to tell story in a much longer timeline – from early 1990’s to the late, which covered a whole era of great changes happened to those illegal immigrants.

Although Yee did it quite well in the big story and the portrait of several key roles like the leader Tie-tou (lit. “Iron Head” in Chinese, played by Jackie Chan), his little buddy Jie (played by Daniel Wu), Japan yakuza kingpin Eguchi (played by Kato Masaya) and the Japan cop Kitano (played by Takenaka Naohito), some “secondary” stories were not told in a decent way. For example, about how Tie-tou’s teenager lover, Xiuxiu, finally became the wife of Eguchi, was told by another gangster kingpin in a way of complain; and the fact that Tie-tou once killed a Chinese cop when smuggling the border was only shown in between the scenes that he was having sex with a prostitute. This is probably due to that the movie had been edited for several times in order to pass the screening standard of countries like China and Singapore (but in the end it did not get the screen permit in mainland China), but still, a good director like Yee should have done it better.

It was considered by Jackie Chan himself to be a “turn point” in his career, meaning that he will turn to non-action movies as he getting older. Well, I can see that he is a good actor from this movie, but not good enough to make ppl totally forget his kongfu fighting skills. If he really wants to be the next Clint Eastwood, he still has a long journey to go.

Daniel Wu’s role, Jie, was repeatedly compared to the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. But I feel that he is more like a younger version of Jacky Cheung in a Hong Kong gangster movie yrs ago, Brothers. And his Hong Kong accent really cannot make us believe that he is playing a young guy from Northeast China.

Almost among all my friends it was considered that the two main Japanese roles, Eguchi and Kitano, were more “shiny” than their Chinese colleagues. It’s not quite surprising to me, esp for Takenaka Naohito, who is considered as “Woody Allen of Japan”.

In a nutshell, if you think that Slumdog Millionaire was brave to describe the life in hell in Bombay, you must admire Derek Yee for much more bravely telling the even bloodier truth in Shinjuku.

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