It would be helpful, or maybe just interesting, to know what goes through our friend Takashi Miike’s head before he embarks on making one of these gangster pictures. He doesn’t seem to want to say anything, or revolutionize the formulaic genre, but he makes so many of them – there’s got to be a reason. I can’t imagine spending two years making a movie like Shinjuku Triad Society and ending up with something so bland, so unspecial. Say what you will about Ichi the Killer (it sucks), at least it was different, going all the way on the perverse meter and giving us a distinct, disturbing host of images to haunt our dreams forever.

Shinjuku Triad Society on the other hand ventures to the edge, but merely peers over. Sure, there’s more man-on-man cocksucking that I’ve ever seen on film, and a cop-on-the-edge who takes to rape and brutality whenever the chips are down, but in between all the “oh my god no” moments – the movie was practically asking for me to fall asleep. To be fair, I don’t really care about the crime-drama genre, and think that out of all of them the South Central gangsters will always be the most interesting, but there are a special few non-John Woo Asian gangster movies I really dig.

Takashi Miike is a director who I really, really want to like. Glancing over his filmography we find a range of colorful titles that pull me in – Full Metal Yakuza, Sukiyaki Western Django, Happiness of the Katakuris – and the movies of his I’ve seen all have great premises. In Shinjuku Triad Society, and by extension Ichi the Killer, we have an ultraviolent picture about some messed-up gangsters and a disturbing exploration into the pyschological darkness of Japan’s worst. Sounds good, but the execution is less like a Wong Kar Wai gangster flick and more like… mean-spirited characters I hate.

A Wong Kar Wai movie like As Tears Go By is thick with melodrama and has very little violence. Absolutely no sexuality or nudity – an experience with less (or no, rather) exploitative distractions from what it’s saying. With Shinjuku Triad Society, what begins as your by-the-numbers crime-drama descends slowly and painstakingly into a shambling, stumbling farce: aggresive but empty cinema. That’s also what I got from what I saw of 13 Assassins, a movie with an amazing trailer.

A criticism I recall regarding the films of Martin Scorsese that I totally agree with was that these characters are all jerks. Why should I care about their success? That’s exactly how I felt about this movie. None of the character appealed to me; the opposite, in fact. What is it about this movie that inspired Miike to make it? Couldn’t be the characters, or the story, or the themes, so it must be the violence. The entire movie feels like a vehicle for the gruesome violence, including one actually kind of ‘cool’ instance where the cop slams a chair down on a suspect lying on the interrogation table – we cut to big Japanese title letters on impact. Very effective.

Unfortunately the quality goes downhill from there but the classic Miike misogyny only ramps up. Boy, there’s nothing that entertains me more than violence against women. Forced sex? Color me impressed!

I’ll give the guy one more chance, but if I see another movie like this, I’m hanging it up on this dude. I hate to say “too Japanese,” because Japan is awesome, right? But

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