Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 17th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2009
Director: Tôya Satô
Writer: Mika Omori
Cast: Ken’ichi Matsuyama, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Teruyuki Kagawa, Yuriko Yoshitaka, Tarô Yamamoto, Yûki Amami, Kei Satô, Ken Mitsuishi, Suzuki Matsuo, Sôtarô, Ryushin Tei, Bobby
DVD released: July 26th, 2010
Approximate running time: 135 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: 4Digital Media
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £15.99
Synopsis: Since arriving in Tokyo, Kaiji’s life has been spiraling out of control since. He has had trouble holding down a job and frustrated with life in general. Things take a turn for the worse when a debt collector comes looking for their money. Unable to repay that loan, the debt collector gives Kaiji one final chance to repay his debt. The debt collector tells him about a gambling boat in which it is possible for him to win in one night the money he needs to pay his debt.
Kaiji The Ultimate Gambler was directed by Tôya Satô (Gokusen: The Movie), whose father is director Jun’ya Satô (Bullet Train, Never Give Up). The screenplay was adapted from a Manga titled “Tobaku Mokushiroku Kaiji” that was created by Nobuyuki Fukumoto (Akagi). The cinematographer on Kaiji The Ultimate Gambler was Katsumi Yanagijima, who’s other notable credits as a cinematographer include Boiling Point, Sonatine, Battle Royale and The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi.
At the core of this film is a story about young man who his life has always taken the easy way out. Of course this path leads him down a road of self destruction that makes him easy prey for a secret society of wealthy people. Who find pleasure through the suffering of the poor. The main subplot that runs throughout this film is the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have not’s’. And while the message this film is trying to get across does have a universal appeal that is easy to connect with. The way in which the film drives home its point lacks finesse.
Another area where this film comes up short is its snail like pacing which is further hinder by scenes that drag on way past their effectiveness. Also the performances from the entire cast are just as uneven as the pacing. With the only performance leaving any lasting impression being Yûki Amami (Black Angel 2, Inugami) in the role of the debt collector who sets Kaiji’s journey of self discovery into motion. Even though the premise for this film is ripe with possibilities. The end result is a meandering story that fails to live up to its full potential.
Note: The disc that was sent for this review was a DVD-R which only contains the film. Also this screener presents the film in a 2.35:1 letterboxed widescreen and the English subtitles are hardcoded. I would assume that the final street product will be a anamorphic widescreen presentation and removable English subtitles. And the press release which I was sent with this screener mentions that the extras for this release are a trailer for the film and a ‘Making of’ documentary. And while the audio / video presentation included with this disc does look and sound pretty good. We are unable to fully review this release since it is not representative of the final street product.