Crows: Episode Zero (2007)
There's no such thing as a fair fight.
Oh stop your whining, I like watching foreign flicks - those that may or may not emulate some of the stuff we are used to seeing in our hollywood copy-paste lifetimes. Some of the reviews said that this would have some awesome fights, and being an action hungry kind of guy, how could I resist? Add in that it was dubbed so I could take a break from all the reading I've been doing as of late, and it was guaranteed. Can this gang of punks grow on you, or will you rather they be tossed in the gutter?
Plot here is super simple to follow, but it is told from a couple different views. Forgive me for not jotting down the names for everyone - outside of Ken and Genji there's practically no chance for me to remember this many cast members - and even less chance of me correctly pronouncing them all. Anyways, in this town the kid's aren't alright. The local boy's school is more a warground than it is a educational institute, and outside of the "starting the school year" ceremony you shouldn't expect to see much of the instructors in this movie - it's not what it's all about.
Enter one of our main characters - the "outsider" Genji. His dad's a lead of one of the local Yakuza, and has told his son that in order to take over the business he first has to conquer the before mentioned school. Genji, after being mistaken for a rival student who apparently put a bunch of a different Yakuza gang in the hospital, happens by a chain of circumstances to meet Yakuza man Ken - who dropped out, but always had the dream of reaching the top of that school. The two team up, Ken laying down a good plan to help Genji along, while Genji himself does the actual work towards his goal.
Of course, it's not that simple since theres a good six or seven different "gangs" within the school, and Genji is going to need to use more than just brute force to get everyone over on his side. Toss in a very romance-light romantic interest and subplot, some crude humor, and Genji needing to deal with the ramifications of what his friendship with a rival Yakuza leaders son entails, and you have most the movie. There are some twists involved, where you think you know what'll happen and it gets spun a different direction, but at it's essence this is very much a battle royale in a school house for dominance. Theres also various little instances of the other gangs/characters getting some time in the spotlight, but the main gist of things has been laid down for you.
Through most of the movie, fights happen. This is great in theory - keeps the pace up, keeps the adrenaline going - but not all fights are equal. I'm not trying to say here that the fights are bad - they very much take place in a manner that's befitting of a bunch of high-school punks beating the crap out of each other - yet they weren't nearly as dynamic as some reviews led me to believe. That is, of course, until the final battle takes main stage - which was executed in such a manner that the build up was palpable. You know from them setting the time it's gonna be the final showdown, and yet here you have the group gathering in the raining street as they head to the battleground, cut in to shots of Genji and his problem, a character I haven't mentioned yet, and the romance-lite element getting on stage and starting a song. Segue to the next paragraph...
Music here, although as far as I can tell not being a main component, definitely dresses to impress. If you've happened to have seen Streets of Fire, you might understand me a bit better here, but I can try to elaborate the best I can regardless. There are scenes of bands playing (particularly the opening credits, and a few times the lady singer takes center stage), and you could certainly say those songs pertain to whats happening in many instances. This causes the music to be more than simply a soundtrack, and yet not as intrusive as what you would find in a lot of musicals. That being said, even when the music is just background music, it's range from jazzy numbers to driving force rock was enough that when the dubbing delivered a line and auto-balanced the music down so you could easily hear the characters lines, I was actually disappointed.
Audio is fine, although as with all dubbing it's not always very good - but it's a price I'm willing to pay to avoid having to read for the duration. Acting is decent enough - I wouldn't go as far as to say it's winning any awards, but they do a fine job of delivering if their character is frustrated or not just through their actions/body language. Costumes aren't exactly diverse - although they are fitting - and I find that my hardest problem was telling some of the characters apart from each other. I don't care if it sounds racist, when you see the final scene in the rain when everyone with longer hair starts looking like a soaked dog in the same attire, you'll know exactly what I mean.
It might not be worth watching to a lot of folks, even if it's only real transgressions against the viewer is the embarrassing 'group date' scene and abundance of violence (which, although plenty of blood hits the screen, contains practically zero gore). The soundtrack was probably one of the best I've heard lately, and when combined with the final fight I would certainly urge that people should try checking it out if they think they can sit through essentially a movie about gangs. Certainly, the soundtrack is something I'd listen to if I had it in the car, but the presentation of the final segment (including the initial "boss" one on one fight) is what really wins me over on this one the most.