Shinjuku Triad Society (1995)
By: CJ on July 28, 2004  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Artsmagic (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1:85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 102 Minutes
The Movie
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring:Kippei Shina, Tomorowo Taguchi, Takeshi Caesar, Shinsuke Izutu and Ren Osugi
Screenplay:Ichirô Fujita
Music: Atorie Shira
Country: Japan
AKA: Shinjuku kuroshakai: Chaina mafia sensô
Shinjuku Triad Society is the first entry in Takashi Miike's Black Society Trilogy. As with many of Miike's offerings, the film is harsh and uncompromising in its portrayal of gangster life in the shadowy underworld of the Far East.

Miike's film takes in gay gangsters, illegal trading in internal organs and violence in spades. The film has an unusually straightforward narrative (for Miike, at any rate) and is fairly easy to follow as the film twists and turns as it races towards its climax. This doesn't stop certain passages from being a little confusing though, as we struggle to figure out who is doing what to whom, and why. What is interesting about the story, however, is that against this brutal backdrop, the central theme of the film is the story of two brothers on opposite sides of the law, which Miike uses to great effect, injecting some intense drama into the already heady mix.

Shinjuku Triad Society is a powerful and potent cocktail of sex, violence and human exploitation. Miike is never one to shy away from his subject matter and this film, like many of his later works, positively revels in its sleaziness. All of this is helped by a very capable cast, who make their characters believable and are very convincing in the roles they play, which makes it all the more horrific.

This isn't going to be everyone's tastes, and the easily offended are advised to steer well clear – family viewing this ain't. But for those who are a little more adventurous, this may well be a rewarding viewing experience, as no-one makes films quite like Miike. His films have a quality about them that keep you going back for more – and it's more than just the violence, they have a weird vibe all of their own, which makes them unique.

For those who have experienced Miike and like his cinematic world, then this is a definite 'must see'. I'd certainly recommend it.
Artsmagic grace their DVD with an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, which look very nice indeed. The image is perhaps a little soft and lacking detail, but this seems to be down to the source elements (the UK R2 from Tartan is the same) than to any fault with the Artsmagic authoring. The colours remain stable throughout and the blacks are solid with no visible signs of compression artefacting. More than acceptable and generally looks very good, though I've seen better in all honesty. Artsmagic DVDs are excellent on the whole, which leads me to conclude that this is how the film was shot and that not much could be done to make it any better than it looks here.
The audio provided is a Japanese DD 2.0 track with accompanying English subtitles, which are clear and easy to read. There's not much in the way of audio dynamics on offer here, but it's acceptable and renders the sound very well, with dialogue, music and FX reproduced with great clarity. Also available is an optional, and informatively entertaining, audio commentary from Asian film expert Tom Mes. This is well worth a listen if you want some background to the film and its influences; he also knows Japanese history and culture inside out, which makes for great listening when combined with his cinematic knowledge.
Extra Features
As well as the audio commentary that's mentioned above, also provided are two on-camera interviews with director Takashi Miike and one with film editor Yasushi Shimamura. There are also text biographies and filmographies for the principle cast and crew and a theatrical trailer for the main feature. A nice package and adds value to the release which makes it an even more worthwhile purchase.
The Verdict
Brutal and unflinching in its depiction of gangster life in Japan, Shinjuku Triad Society is utterly compelling viewing and can never be accused of being boring. Where else will you see a police confession extracted from a suspect using anal rape? Nowhere, I would think! Full of weird characters, sexual exploitation and brutal violence, Miike's film is not easily forgotten. A powerful viewing experience and a film that I highly recommend that all those with an interest in Asian cinema should see. Top-notch stuff – but definitely not for those with delicate sensibilities. Although not as extreme as his later opus, Ichi the Killer, it's still pretty harrowing stuff and unpleasant in its own twisted way.
Movie Score
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