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Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl

Posted by miguel on 2003-10-23 13:18:49
 

In one word: Kindof

The Japanese are a great peoples: cute women, big robots, ninjas and monsters everywhere, the ability to buy used schoolgirl underwear from vending machines and their underworld yakuza ( the Japanese Mafia for those who are UNKEWL and do not know such basic facts) makes the Italian mafia look like a bunch of fat, old, balding Italians who run Laundromats and Sanitary Service Companies (which I guess is what they are these days).

Take this movie for example: Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (from now on SSMPHG). The opening credits basically rundown the cast of characters, who are basically all Yakuza assassins, each with a distinct a colorful visual appeal. Theres a muclebound guy, a baseball guy, a nerdy guy that uses knifes and is crazy, another crazy guy that apparently has Wolverine-like enhanced senses and a bunch of other quirky misfits that look like they jumped out of a manga (a Japanese comic book for those who are UNKEWL, yet again). Actually, this movie is based on a manga...so yes, they did jump out of it.

The story is your basic road movie with lovers in peril as the main characters. A yakuza thug steals money from other yakuzas who are now all after him, but they crash into this girls car who then runs off with the thief and they get into many zany misadventures fighting off both the yakuza and another guy that the girls incestuous uncle has sent to bring her back to his UNHOLY LUST!!!111one!

So far so simple, but the Japanese sometimes have these movies that suffer from poor pacing and drag at inappropriate moments, at least for a Western audience. There are some ridiculously sweet moments that I will describe below, but by and large this movie can be a bit of a bore with not much happening for moments on end. I've read reviews that claim that all of the characters are very fleshed out and all have complex relationships, but in my view 15 of the 20 yakuza assassins have about 5 minutes of meaningful screen time before they get blown away. Hwever the other 5 do have some cool lines and are fleshed out.

Other reviewers claim that this is as quirky and fun as a Quentin Tarantino movie....but not really, at most its an over the top parody of the genre of "cool gangsters" movie that succeeds sometimes. There is actually very little "action" to speak of, and the climax shootout which offs about a third of the characters is.....different. I guess it should be seen for just how strangely the shootout is filmed, very theatrical and still. It was kind of cool I guess, sort of an antithesis to John Woo's over the top slow-mo ragnarokian battles.

But the reason to rent this has got to be Mr.Yamada, who is this little weird dude sent by the heroines EVUHL INCESTUOUS UNCLE to fech her back to him. I cant even begin to describe how odd and funny this character is, but he is a beautiful, beautiful creature that deserves to be seen and laughed at by all of you.

So if you want a great, awesome yakuza flick with action, insane characters and a cornucopia of bulletholes you should go for Takeshi "Beat" Kitanos movies (Brother is a good starter) or his more insane and insidious contemporary, my hero and GOD Takahashi Miike (Get Fudoh first to see if you have a stomach for him). As it is, this is a rental to see Mr.Yamada, the final shootout and a few other genuinely funny moments.

FOR THE CHILDREN:

1. For some reason the heroes decide that they need a makeover, so they go to this crazy dude who loves to do an awesome "snap and point" with his hands at all times. Snap your fingers then immediately do the gun point thing with your index finger at somebody. If properly done you should immediately begin to feel cooler and hipper.

2. Mr. Yamada....oh Mr.Yamada...I can't even describe much of his antics throughout this movie....but the ninja quickdraw and the hilarious " shimmy and then shoot a punks foot off" just have to be mentioned.

3. The uncle does manage to get his hands on the girl towards the end of the movie, and has he attempts to molest her (don't worry he doesn't actually get to do anything) he is wearing a bra for some strange, disturbing reason. And he has a comedically awful die job done on his hair.

4. This one Yakuza assassin is an...shall we say....eccentric character who is dressed in a extremely loud and sweet outfit. There is comedy to be found in his lighter twirls, his super-fast-ninja chase through the forest and his ability to smell better than a canine.

5. Mr. Yamada.....if you are going to turn off the lights to a building, and then use a night vision scope to rain destruction upon your foes, please make sure you actually turn off the lights to said building, or you will just get blinded by the light and you will walk into a room full of said foes, and no good can come of that.

Next up: DEATHWATCH, part of the new wave of British horror movies...remember DOG SOLDIERS? (Why am I capitalizing the titles like that?)