Survive Style 5+ (2004)
By: Rip on December 13, 2010  | 
DVD
Eastern Eye | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | Japanese DD 5.1 | 115 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Gen Sekiguchi
Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Reika Hashimoto, Vinnie Jones, Hiroshi Abe, Shinichi Chiba
Screenplay: Taku Tada
Country: Japan
External Links
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Every so often, a film comes along without much fanfare and quietly knocks your socks off. Survive Style 5+ is one such movie. Sure, it's yet another wacky and stark-raving mad Japanese flick, but this one's just that little bit different. In fact, it's very different and so much so, that it's rather difficult to describe. I'm not even sure what it's all about, but there are definitely a few messages in there. You'll probably just have to see it more than once to get them all, but believe me, it's worth it.

The film's title derives from five interweaving tales, each of which focuses on a person or persons whose lives aren't quite like your average run-of the-mill Joe.

First of all, we have Aman (Asano Tadanobu from Ichi The Killer) who has just murdered his wife (Reika Hashimoto) and buried her in a forest. When he returns home, he finds the wife he's just buried, sitting at the kitchen table, very much alive and waiting for him. His initial confusion quickly subsides when she attempts to kill him, so once again, he has another go and buries her a second time. Yet again, she returns, attempts to kill him and so on. A seemingly endless cycle sets in…

The next tale follows with Yoko (Kyoko Koizumi), a shallow advertising executive who makes television commercials and finds inspiration everywhere she goes, but can't convince her boss (played by the legendary Sonny Chiba) or his clients to give her a break...

Then there's average working man Tatsuya (Ittoku Kishibe) who is about to lose his job, but has just secured tickets for himself and his loving family to see famed hypnotist Aoyama (a hilarious Abe Hiroshi), and upon attending the show, Tatsuya is hypnotized in to thinking he is a bird. In a tragic turn of events, Tatsuya's hypnotized state cannot be reversed and his family is forced to deal with his bizarre condition…

Then there's the bumbling twenty-something small time crooks, Tsuda (Kanji Tsuda), Morishita (Yoshiyuki Morishita) and Jae (Jae West) who have a very strange relationship with each other…

And finally in the fifth tale, we have an obnoxious British hit-man (played by none other than Vinnie Jones) and his translator (Yoshi Yoshi Arakawa) who land in Japan to deal with some very strange and deadly business that may just involve some of the other characters we've met along the way, to each of whom Jones enquires, "What is your function in life…?"

This hyper kinetic and rather extraordinary film really is a delight. With its cartoon-like production design, vivid use of colour and laugh-out-loud humour, Survive Style 5+ is impossibly entertaining. Whilst some may be unable to relate to the sometimes oddball Asian sense of humour (and indeed it can sometimes be very oddball), here the dialogue, scenarios and general themes are universal, and often laugh-out-loud funny. There is a terrific energy to this film and Gen Sekiguchi's background as a director of television commercials works well in this, his first feature. Sekiguchi also served as the film's editor, and whilst it purposefully harks back to the MTV-era technique of manic cutting, it's never overdone and instead, produces an exhilarating pace that never becomes confusing, especially given the multiple, occasionally intersecting storylines. And speaking of intersecting storylines, I can almost hear you all shouting, "Pulp Fiction!" But rest assured, folks, we're talking chalk and cheese.

Performance-wise, all participants are excellent right across the board. Of course, Vinnie Jones does Vinnie Jones very well, but there's terrific work from the enigmatic Tadanobu Asano as Aman, Japanese recording artist Kyoko Koizumi as Yoko, Sonny Chiba giving up street-fighting for company executive Kazama and fellow veteran Ittoku Kishibe playing against type as Tatsuya, who spends half the movie perched and chirping like a bird. Most importantly however, it's the scripting that matters in a film like this and screenwriter Taku Tada doesn't miss a trick, with sharp shots at commercialism, the definition of family values, exploring taboo issues such as homosexuality, etc, to the search for one's true self and finding acceptance in an ever changing society. These themes and more are explored in this multi-layered movie, and whilst blackly funny, it's ultimately also a very sweet and melancholic work.
Video
A visual feast like this demands a top notch transfer and that's exactly what we get from Madman's Eastern Eye release. Vibrant, eye-popping colours abound without the slightest hint of colour bleed in this 1:85 anamorphic transfer. Contrast is excellent and razor-sharp detail is present throughout. Subtitles feature in a clear yellow font.
Audio
We get the choice of Japanese 5.1 or DTS. Either way, the soundtrack rocks and there are some terrific songs chosen for the film, which also include Cake's wonderful take on the classic, 'I Will Survive'. Surrounds are constantly in use for all manner of effects and James Shimoji's original music score comes off beautifully. Excellent work from Madman.
Extra Features
Unlike the Japanese release which features a raft of supplemental material, sadly we only get the film's trailer and some others for various Eastern Eye titles.
The Verdict
Survive Style 5+ is unlike any Japanese film I've seen. It's a delirious, wildly imaginative ride that is alternately hilarious and poignant. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face, this one has tremendous replay value and comes highly recommended.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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