Written by: John White on January 2nd, 2006
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2001
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Kenichi Endo, Kojiro Hongo, Kouichi Iwaki, Taishu Kase, Ryuji Katagiri, Kazuya Kimura
DVD released: August 22, 2005
Approximate running time: 78 + 78 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: Widescreen presented in 4:3
Sound: Dolby Digital stereo
DVD Release: Film 2000 Japan
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £19.99
Lightning Takeshi is a hitman hired to kill a mobster. He is identified whilst carrying out the hit and soon the Matsuma gang is chasing him down. He also brings heat down on his estranged brothers Takashi, and Hideshi who are important lieutenants in a rival gang. Their boss will not allow a turf war so they are left on their own to rescue their brother whilst the Matsuma gang targets their family. Takeshi falls for the woman who witnesses his hit and he resolves to go straight. Gangster family loyalties are to the fore, blood is spilled and shit is blown up.
Writing a synopsis for a Hisao Maki script is a challenge – I have tried to put some sense into the above summary despite the lack of coherence in the plot on screen! As with Bodyguard Kiba, Miike is reunited with Maki and the results are overwhelmingly bad. In the interim, Miike has directed great films like Bird People in China, Dead or Alive 2, the Kuroshakai trilogy and Audition. Miike has certainly moved on and the generic unimaginative approach to Bodyguard Kiba has been replaced by a much more experimental, flashy and boundary testing direction. It is unsurprising that in over 150 minutes of film that their are several great moments in Family, these are all provided by Miike’s imagination and approach to rather poorly written material. Flashes of bravura editing, occasionally brilliant set-ups and great uses of lighting are here.
What else there is, is the equivalent of one line from the head of the Matsuma gang – “Look at my dick, its huge”. Macho hyperbole and women presented as receptacles of lust are the meat and drink of this incompetent and often offensive story. Hisao Maki can’t write dialogue or plot – a leading female character is given the line “are you sure you wouldn’t like to sleep with me”! This film is a huge exercise in ego and it is a surprise that it takes over an hour for Maki to appear in his trademark arthritic Kung Fu guru in sunglasses role, when he does you marvel at the rug on his head and the whole cheapness of his back-story. I believe they ran out of money making the second part so Maki’s introduction is done with him and other actors acting in front of back projection of newsreel. This end to the money also explains why part 2 begins with the whole of the last 12 minutes of part one and why part two finishes in such a confused way. The music is so screechingly awful that I wonder if any satire was meant by it – when Hideshi and Takashi storm the other gang’s hideout in a very phallic tank this is intercut with Takashi’s wife being raped to the strains of some Japanese version of Napalm Death. Such sophistication.
There are some welcome Miike themes hidden in the film with Takashi’s brother in law (Ryo Ishibashi) played as ethnically Chinese, and Takeshi is the rebel who kills his own father a la Freud. But these touches and the taboo busting sex don’t save what is probably a favour Miike did Maki. This really is very, very poor.
Like Bodyguard Kiba, this is released by Film 2000 Japan. This is a 2 disc set with exactly the same trailers for other Film 2000 Japan releases on both discs. The film is presented with burnt in subs and the widescreen presented in full frame. The transfer for part one is ghastly, there are times when it is difficult working out whether it is in colour or black and white. The transfer is so poor that the subtitles are even blurred. The second part is slightly better transferred but not approaching anything near an acceptable quality – think grey market bootlegs. The audio is stereo and is dull but durable.
Family is the worst of Miike’s films that I have seen, it has it’s moments but these are really echoes of former glories from Miike. Hisao Maki should not be allowed near film production of any kind. Someone, just think of the children!
I own everything by Miike that I can get and if you are an incurable collector of things Miike you will have to have this bad disc of a poor film.