Review: SHINJUKU INCIDENT 新宿事件 (2009) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Review: SHINJUKU INCIDENT 新宿事件 (2009)

Review: SHINJUKU INCIDENT 新宿事件 (2009)

Set in the 1990s, the plot centres on Steelhead (Chan), a Chinese farmer who illegally travels to Japan in search of his childhood sweetheart Xiu Xiu (Xu Jinglei). After dodging some cops, he finally made it safe to live alongside friend Jie (Daniel Wu) and other Chinese immigrants, including Lao Gwei (Lam Suet) and Hongkie (Chin Kar-Lok), in a makeshift asylum in the red-light district of Shinjuku. Soon, Jie helps Steelhead navigating the place around, showing him some ropes and warns him not to mess with the local gangsters. They subsequently land in a number of odd jobs which pay them very little, only to be constantly busted down by a bunch of cops, lead by Inspector Kitano (Naoto Takenaka) during an illegal worker raid. In one bust, Steelhead has unexpectedly saved the life of Kitano. In return, Kitano helps him to escape the cops and offers further assistance if he ever needs it. He soon discovers Xiu Xiu has adopted a Japanese name, Yuko, who is now married to a rising Japanese gangster named Eguchi (Masaya Kato). Meanwhile, Jie crosses path with a Taiwanese gangster Gao (Jack Kao), resulting one of his hands get chopped off. On the other end, Steelhead meets a sweet-hearted bar hostess Lily (Fan Bingbing) and also saves Eguchi from the opposing gangster. Eguchi eventually grants him as a triad leader in Shinjuku to be looking after. Steelhead's goal is to encourage everyone to do decent business, only to discover nothing is as simple as black and white. 

REVIEW: One of the most heavily-anticipated Hong Kong blockbuster movies of the year, SHINJUKU INCIDENT is a long-awaited first collaboration effort between Jackie Chan and director Derek Yee, which has been in-the-making for the past 10 years.

Originally scheduled for last year's September release but forced to pull out due to the Chinese censorship board citing the controversial nature of Chinese immigrants working in Japan as well as the movie's strong content in violence. However, Derek Yee and the studio execs refused to trim a lot in the movie for a more commercial-friendly rating, fearing it might hurt the overall quality of the content and decides not to release in China, which often a lucrative market there. 

With such buzz and especially the huge hype about Jackie Chan's first foray into a rare straight dramatic outing, SHINJUKU INCIDENT is indeed interesting enough to check out for. Make no mistake, the movie tries hard to be both immigrant drama and a gangster thriller in the vein of Martin Scorcese's GOODFELLAS-type but the movie's supposedly ambitious effort is surprisingly haphazard and I dare to say, quite a disappointment. 

Though the plot sounds compelling enough, the movie is too patchy in places that many scenes, especially those with multiple subplots doesn't quite gel each other. But the biggest problem is Jackie Chan himself, who is a tough sell playing regular guy forced to cross into a dark path. While his bold attempt to land a different role that totally ditches his usual trademark of fancy martial arts is admirable, his deadpan delivery is too stiff to tackle such demanding character. It doesn't help too when his role is softened as a gangster with a heart of gold, instead of a full-fledged conflicted person he supposed to be. Still, the rest of the supporting actors are strong. Of all, it is Daniel Wu's stellar performance as Jie, who first depicted as a mousy person before going major transformation as a violent criminal. The female counterparts, Fan Bingbing and Xu Jinglei, are sadly reduced to thankless parts. 

As for director Derek Yee, who ventures the gangster genre for the third time after 2004's ONE NIGHT IN MONGKOK and 2006's PROTEGE, this is his easily his weakest effort of all. Perhaps the epic scope in this movie proves to be too tough for him to handle, especially given with so many complex ideas and issues all around. 

But he remains efficient when comes to individual scenarios. Like his previous two efforts, the movie offers a sudden short burst of violence, particularly in the Mexican stand-offs between Steelhead and his fellow Chinese immigrants, which provides some entertaining moments. 

Overall SHINJUKU INCIDENT could have been better if this movie isn't spearheaded by Jackie Chan but someone else more qualified.

Despite Jackie Chan's highly-publicised rare dramatic turn, SHINJUKU INCIDENT is a patchy gangster drama and easily Derek Yee's weakest genre effort to date.

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