© 2005, 2006 Static and Feedback
All rights reserved
|If Japanese shoot-em-up movies
were the Bible, this is Genesis
Fuhdo: The New Generation (1996)
Director: Takashi Miike
By JIM CAROLUS
STATIC and FEEDBACK correspondent
We are approximately 10 minutes into Fudoh: The New
Generation. A man crouching in a restroom stall is about to be
shot by a raincoat-clad assassin and his silent partner. At the
first sign of life, the assassin opens fire, pumping round after
round into the stall and its unlikely tenant. The victim manages
to triumphantly break through the wall into the second stall,
then the third. But it doesn't matter. The silent partner has
been able to "reload" the assassins guns by throwing the clips
up from the floor while the shooting continues...uninterrupted.
Of course, the assassin doesn't have much time to celebrate.
His decapitated head is delivered to the crime boss who
ordered the "hit" less than 2 minutes later.
Then, the opening credits begin.
Fudoh is not a new film. It is also not an especially "great" one. Its plot is silly and barely serviceable and the film
has one of the most unsatisfying endings I have ever seen (promising a high-quality sequel that never arrived).
Its director, Takashi Miike, has directed more than 20 (!!) theatrical films since 1995. So why would I choose
THIS film as your introduction to this amazing director?
I could, after all, have suggested Audition, Dead or Alive, Ichi the Killer, or Visitor Q. All are much better films and
classics in their own right.
They are also, and I can’t emphasize this enough, very difficult films for most audiences to sit through. You won’t
be bored (not a chance), but you may be shocked and disgusted in between bouts of laughter. Watching Visitor
Q before any other Miike films would be an act of madness – you’d want my head on a stake. Better to start
You’ve been warned. I am not responsible for any psychological harm caused by any of these recommended
films. Suffice it to say there’s a reason Roger Ebert doesn’t review Miike films, and it isn’t the subtitles. If the
concept of gun-toting nine year olds or (what can only be described as) "flesh-dissolving" coffee bothers you...
stay far, far away.
You see, Takashi Miike is one twisted individual. He is also one of the finest cinematic craftsmen to emerge
from Japan in the last decade. I’ve heard his directing style described as a combination of Paul Verhoeven
(Robocop) and the Farrelly Brothers (There’s Something About Mary). It’s an apt comparison, but one that
requires an additional detail; this director isn’t afraid to completely offend his audience.
Much of Miike’s work, though not all, concerns itself with outrageous scenes of graphic violence and sexual
weirdness conceived (often humorously) on an almost surreal, avant-garde level. The shocking nature of his
films is usually SO over-the-top that, much like a Monty Python sketch, what might SOUND offensive or off-putting
in print becomes laughably absurd when seen in the right context. The "coffee" scene is one of the most striking
instances of this...its cartoonish depiction is hilarious, despite (or perhaps because of ) its morbid subject
And yet, there’s something unquestionably subversive and disturbing about many of Miike’s films. Maybe that’s
why I find them so challenging, fascinating, and invigorating: there are sights and ideas in his films that no
director had DREAMED of touching before him. Some people may wish these “ideas” had stayed buried, but I
am not one of them. Takashi Miike is perhaps the most “dangerous” living filmmaker, and I love him for it.
Essentially, many of Miike’s early 90’s films (of which Fudoh represents a sort of "culmination") are action
movies using clichés that have existed in Japanese (and American) crime films since the 70s. In particular,
Miike owes a debt of gratitude to both the immaculately choreographed “ballet-violence” of early John Woo (The
Killer, Hard Boiled) and the more realistically brutal films of Takeshi Kitano (most known in the US for his 2000
English-language film Brother). Unlike those directors, however, Miike never takes himself (or his jaw-droppingly
violent scenarios) very seriously – a quality that some viewers find reassuring and others find heartless,
immature or alienating. As a sidenote, Quentin Tarantino considers Miike a personal favorite, recently
authorizing him to direct an unfilmed portion of Kill Bill for the stage.
If you’re new to Miike, Fudoh is probably the best place to begin for three reasons. First, the film’s plot,
concerning a father-son power struggle for control of the Japanese Mafia (Yakuza), is relatively simple. Second,
its “shock scenes” are immensely satisfying and often very funny, but not as offensive as some of his other films
(still, you’ll never look at a dart gun the same way again...and I've already said too much). Third, its one of his
most purely entertaining films. No need to worry about absorbing difficult cultural quirks or dense thematic
concepts with this film…its intent is only to introduce you to a director unafraid to break any and all taboos. The
plot is really nothing more than an excuse to display his outrageously creative ideas, but it’s those IDEAS that
make his films so interesting.
And the best thing about watching Fudoh? After its over (if you like it), you’ve got about 15 BETTER Miike films to
choose from. Did I mention it has not one, but TWO of the greatest shootout scenes of the past ten years? I
opened my review with the first one. I'll leave the second to your imagination.
The cutting edge doesn’t get any sharper than this. Trust me.