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Survive Style 5+ 
Written by: on May 26th, 2006

Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2004
Director: Gen Sekiguchi
Writer: Taku Tada
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Reika Hashimoto, Hiroshi Abe, Vinnie Jones, Shinichi Chiba

DVD released: May 29th, 2006
Approximate running time: 120 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 15
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo/ 5.1/DTS
DVD Release: Manga Dentsu
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £16.99

A husband tries to kill his wife in various ways but she always returns from the dead to kick his butt. A family are thrown into chaos when the father is left in a hypnotic trance believing he is a bird. Three young men break into others houses and two share a secret love. An advert producer consistently finds her wacky ideas unappreciated. And an English Hitman comes to Japan to help out an assassination bureau. The husband hires the Hitman to kill his returning wife, the family’s house is invaded by the young men and the advert producer also hires the Hitman. One by one all the stories intertwine and the Hitman asks everyone, “What is your function in life”.

Survive Style 5+ is the first feature film from the team of Taku Tada and Gen Sekiguchi. It takes 5 short stories which are introduced with a number and proceeds to mix them up and criss cross the lives of the characters. In the first story Tadanobu Asano can not be rid of his wife and each time she returns from the grave she visits a butt whupping on him up till the point when he notices the beauty of her costume. The family forced to live with a dad who acts like a bird and wants to fly learn to become resolved to his fate. The three young men learn to be friends and lovers. The Hitman kills a magician, Asano’s wife and finds himself considering the point of Broccoli. The advert producer loses her tape machine with her dictated ideas on it. In the end Asano jumps from a skyscraper to be saved by the flying dad and they see the young men resolved and in love.

Survive Style is very witty and very enjoyable pop film making. It boasts excellent kitsch set and costume design and a welcome underuse of clever camera work and editing. The film is a fun ride from beginning to end with little intent to make a point or change the viewer. It’s comic book approach is much more successful than many a movie and it boasts a cast that few first time directors could assemble.

The cast are not really called on to emote or move the viewer or portray any depth, but the fact that Vinnie Jones looks like the comedy villain he is meant to be is testament to the director’s abilities. In all future films Jones should appear with his comedy translator who steals this movie. Asano does his eastern Eastwood thing with few words and many actions, Hiroshi Abe enjoys himself as the flying dad and Sonny Chiba cameos as a henpecked businessman. The acting is matched by the craft with superb editing and cinematography. In fact there is very little to grumble about with this début. I can’t remember such a successful Asian comedy of recent years.

Narratively innovative, genuinely funny and well put together. Survive Style is great fun and an excellent bubblegum movie. You may not learning the meaning of life but you may smile more about it after watching this film. Recommended.

The DVD:

This Manga disc comes with a making of featurette and trailers for other releases. The main feature is presented anamorphically in a fine bright and sharp print. The English subtitles are reliable throughout and the sound comes in a myriad of options including DTS and 5.1. Personally I preferred the 5.1 track which felt less separated and trebley than the DTS track.

This is fine entertainment and anyone should feel happy to rent this accessible film. Somewhere between Wes Anderson and Pedro Almodovar, this is great popcorn film making and a fine presentation.

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