Heroes of the East

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    Shinjuku Incident (2009: Derek Yee Tung-Sing: Hong Kong)

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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Shinjuku Incident (2009: Derek Yee Tung-Sing: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Thu Aug 25, 2011 9:43 am

    There is certainly an auteuristic streak in the small amount of cinema I have seen from Derek Yee. His previous film Protégé (2007) dealt with the drug trade in a didactic manner which is similar to the approach this film takes in dealing with illegal immigrants in Japan. Both this and Protégé have a curious and sometimes overacting performance from Daniel Wu (Rob-B-Hood). They also both involve severing an arm. But it is his didactic approach that annoys me a bit in this film. I could not quite verbalize it until watching the extras in which Jackie Chan states that the message of the film was that of “be happy where you are” which is, of course, simplistic and ultimately deadly if you are living in a repressive regime. However, I could forgive a bit of lesson-oriented cinema (I did in Protégé), but there were other issues on the forefront that lessoned my enjoyment of the film.

    The biggest issue I think some people will have this is that they will be expecting a “Jackie Chan” film. It is not. I admire Jackie for extending his reach into cinema to take on a decidedly un-charismatic role though this is nowhere near the first time with Crime Story or New Police Story for roles in this vein and for a true antagonistic performance you can go way back to The Killer Meteors (1976). I think his performance is good. I did not think his character, along with several others, was well thought out though.

    Jackie stars as “Steelhead” an illegal immigrant in Japan who is looking for his lost love Xiu-Xiu (Xu Jing-lei: The Warlords) who has disappeared at the same time he is trying to just survive. While this is a May-December relationship (she is much younger than he is), nothing is said about this in the film. I am not sure if he was portraying a much younger man (especially due to flashbacks of them younger which would put them close to the same age) or ego was involved or there is just a strange miscasting. He befriends several immigrants like Lily (Fan Bing-bing: Flash Point), Jie (Daniel Wu) who only wants to be a chestnut vendor and Hong Kong Boy (Chin Kar-lok: Protégé) and eventually has a relationship with Lily in a vastly underused plotline that gets exploited in the end that left me vastly unsatisfied.

    Meanwhile two big things happen: he saves the life of Inspector Kitano (Takenaka Naoto) who is in charge of enforcing immigration and he also saves the life of Eguchi Toshinari (Kato Masaya) who happens to have a high position in the Yakuza and coincidently is also married to his former sweetheart Xiu-Xiu. The sheer coincidence of Jackie saving several lives seemed a too fortuitous but also those scenes go completely against some of the decisions he makes later in the film. It is like Yee wanted him to do evil things to show the depths someone can go to when they are pushed to the brink, but his character remains almost ignorant of them even though he committed some heinous atrocities in the name of helping out himself (to procure a “legal” Japanese ID) and his fellow immigrants. Soon you will see a rise of Scarface proportions with Steelhead serving directly under Eguchi as well as with his Steelhead’s friends most notably Jie who turns into a drug using anime looking character.

    The strength of the film is in particular scenes such as the plethora of issues that are presented to the illegal immigrant from not speaking the language, locals who do not want you there, loneliness, poverty and odd jobs like cleaning the sewers that no one else wants to do. This is a familiar situation to many countries. I do wish that a bit more was spent on why they wanted to leave in the first place. The film had such promise early on that the varied contrivances of the plots and characters started to get more and more overbearing. I think part of the reason was that the director Derek Yee had been working on this for so long and wanted to put so much of what he learned about the topic in one film that a compendium of characters was shoved into Jackie Chan and others that so much seemed contrived.

    If you have seen Protégé and liked it, then it is possible that you will like this as well. If you are specially looking for a stereotypical Jackie film you will most likely dislike it. The action here is presented more realistic so everything appears clumsier. There are times when you expect Jackie to break out and use weapons or handle multiple bad guys with ease, but that is not a fault of the film and is more my preconception. I have read positive reviews on this film (I disagree with them) though most do tend to talk about “plot problems” and several seem to give this a passing mark solely because of the good performance from Chan. While I was happy enough with his performance the myriad of character and plot inconsistencies for me was the biggest reason I am giving this movie a mediocre review.

    The Sony R1 release of it is good. Be warned there are three different English subtitles. One for the dubbed released, one for the dubbed release added with hard-of-hearing and one for the Chinese version. It technically is not completely dubtitles, but it did not always vary that much from the English soundtrack. I easily prefer the original audio track because you get to hear the many different languages used that are lost on the English dub. There are two extras: selected scenes commentary with Jackie Chan (9m) and Say Hello to the Bad Guy (10m) which is a good extra that talks about how long Derek was working on this, the suicide of an actor (not mentioned) who was going to play the role in the film, why the film lost the Mainland China market and various tidbits that make it worth of a watch. Both are short and easily worth the watch to learn more about this film.
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    Brian T

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    Re: Shinjuku Incident (2009: Derek Yee Tung-Sing: Hong Kong)

    Post  Brian T on Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:35 am

    Masterofoneinchpunch wrote:There are two extras: selected scenes commentary with Jackie Chan (9m) and Say Hello to the Bad Guy (10m) which is a good extra that talks about how long Derek was working on this, the suicide of an actor (not mentioned) who was going to play the role in the film, why the film lost the Mainland China market and various tidbits that make it worth of a watch. Both are short and easily worth the watch to learn more about this film.

    Interesting. There hasn't exactly been an abundance of male suicides in the Hong Kong film industry over the past decade or so. In fact, only one immediately springs to mind, and if there were others, he would've been the only one among them "big" enough to carry a lead role and attract financing when he was still working, surely? Was Chan's predecessor ever named elsewhere during the years SHINJUKU INCIDENT was gestating?



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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    Re: Shinjuku Incident (2009: Derek Yee Tung-Sing: Hong Kong)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Thu Aug 25, 2011 10:48 am

    Brian T wrote:...Interesting. There hasn't exactly been an abundance of male suicides in the Hong Kong film industry over the past decade or so. In fact, only one immediately springs to mind, and if there were others, he would've been the only one among them "big" enough to carry a lead role and attract financing when he was still working, surely? Was Chan's predecessor ever named elsewhere during the years SHINJUKU INCIDENT was gestating?

    As far as I know and I spent several hours looking for the name no predecessor was named. It is possible that the star was only in their heads and possible he wasn't even offered it. I was thinking it was for Leslie Cheung, but found no mention of it.

    I applaude Jackie for going forward with the film even though he lost the Mainland market. It doesn't make it a good film, but I do appreciate that. JC is such an interesting figure and part of this is his is the many conflicting things he says and does.

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