Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 15th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, April 5th, 1997
Director: Shinji Aoyama
Writers: Shinji Aoyama, Kumi Sato
Cast: Mickey Curtis, Akiko Izumi, Jun Kunimura, Eiko Nagashima, Yuna Natsuo
DVD released: August 30th, 2005
Approximate running time: 103 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital stereo
DVD Release: Artsmagic
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Eight years ago man was robbed and nearly beaten to death. Years later he finds out that his boss Kenzo Tsumura all these years has had in his possession a video tape which identifies the two men who assaulted him. The yakuza, police and several other individuals are desperate to get their hands on this elusive tape. Hiroki Sakai works as the nail master who works on all of Kenzo Tsumura’s Perchenko machines at his various game parlors. Kenzo Tsumura is kidnapped by the Yakuza who thought he had the tape they are looking for and when they can’t find it they soon turn their attention to his right hand man Hiroki Sakai a washed up former boxer. Hiroki Sakai is forced to look for the missing tape and along the way he uncovers the truth which so many have tried so desperately to hide.
Wild Life like many of the current brand of Yakuza films that have come out Japan since the early 1990’s suffers from a slow start before finally settling and establishing its characters and their motivations. Having been introduced to the films of Shinji Aoyama via his equally unique film EM Embalming a film which shows his growth as a filmmaker when compared to Wild Life which was made a few years earlier. The story in Wild Life is more in the vein of revenge then you’re a typical Yakuza film and in this film they merely serve more as window dressing then the focus of the plot.
One thing that immediately grabs you while watching is how beautiful every composition looks as director Shinji Aoyama goes through a series of gymnastic camera setups and movements that always look polished. The lead character bears a strong resemblance to the wrong man characters that are prevalent in so many of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. There is just so much going on in this film that paying attention to detail is of the utmost importance and multiple viewings may be required to fully enjoy the layers of plot that have been intricately woven throughout the film. Overall Shinji Aoyama’s direction is what is the most compelling about this film. Wild Life convoluted plot may test those who lack patience and those who are brave enough to stick with the film tell the very end with be rewarded with a truly original payoff unlike anything you have ever seen.
Artsmagic presents Wild Life in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves its original 1.85.:1 aspect ratio. Colors are faithfully represented as bright yellows and lush greens are counter balanced with more subdued colors schemes. The black levels are in great shape and grain is kept to a minimum. The image on some of the wider shots is not as sharp and this is most likely due to the low budget nature of this film and not the transfer itself. Flesh tones look healthy and print damage is virtually non-existent. There are some minor instances of edge enhancement. There are no problems with compression or artifacts. This DVD transfer is interlaced. This DVD offers two audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital stereo mixes both are in the films original native language Japanese. Overall both audio tracks are in great shape as the dialog sounds crisps and is easy to follow. The music and effects sounds evenly mixed as they never overpower or distort the rest of the mix. Out of the two audio mixes the Dolby Digital 5.1 getting the slight edge for its more beefed up mix. English subtitles have been included that are easy to follow and understand. Extras for this release include six in depth filmographies and a bio for the director Shinji Aoyama. Other extras include an eighteen minute interview Shinji Aoyama who discusses his influences that include diverse directors like Jean-Luc Godard and John Ford. He also discusses the yakuza genre and background info on making Wild Life. The interview is full of details that are fascinating. Rounding out the extras is an audio commentary with Midnight Eye’s Jasper Sharp who once again comes to the table with his “A” game as he gives the viewer a crash course in the films of Shinji Aoyama and Japanese cinema in the 1990’s. Artsmagic have put together another solid DVD that not comes with some informative extras and a solid audio/video presentation. Wild Life is a daring film that turns all of the conventions of the Yakuza genre on its head with its complex plot and original concepts, recommended.
For more info on Wild Life visit Artsmagic homepage.