Every year thousands of Chinese immigrate to Japan in hope of finding a better life for themselves. Our leading man, Steelhead (Jackie Chan) immigrates to Japan in-search of his partner, who traveled to Japan to visit her auntie and never returned. He takes refuge with his young cousin Jie (Daniel Wu) in a tiny apartment filled with dozen other Chinese immigrates.
When discovering that his partner has married and started a new life with wealthy Yakuza under-boss, Eguichi, Steelhead moves on and begins a life of crime where he and his Chinese brothers work their way up through the Yakuza, soon achieving full control of the Shinjuku district of Tokyo.
Unfortunately for them, their rise to power comes with a price.
Derek Yee has successfully managed to achieve something that we hardly ever see, Derek Yee has made a movie about the Yakuza, not a movie about Jackie Chan. When describing this movie to friends, I explain “It’s a Yakuza movie, that stars Jackie Chan”, this isn’t Mr. Nice Guy with the creative comedic fight scenes, it’s barricading the stairwell, fight for your life fight scenes. Not two men facing off in a scraping, it’s crowds of Yakuza with giant blood stain blades ambushing you in alleyways.
Derek Yee is becoming one of my favorite Hong Kong directors, I was first introduced to his work with “One Nite in Mongkok” which also won me over with Daniel Wu as well. I’ve followed his work almost religiously since; Protege, Drink-Drank-Drunk, Lost in Time and of course the great drama 2 Young.
The movie has superb cast a great mixture of notable Chinese actors working alongside recognizable Japanese actors. Supporting Jackie Chan in this movie we have Daniel Wu, Chin Kar-Lok, Paul Chun, Ken Lo, Lam Suet and the lovely Fan Bing-Bing. Our Japanese actors include Kenya Sawada, who is no strange to Hong Kong Cinema, his acting credits include; Color of Truth, Thunderbolt and ummmm, Jean Claude Van Dammes “Street Fighter”. Joining Mr. Sawada we have Masaya Kato, his credits also quite varied, other than working on several Takashi Miike projects in recent years, Kato has starred in Takeshi Kitanos “Brother”, Crying Freeman and 1998’s US “Godzilla” movie.
The other running storyline of the movie is a trusting relationship between Steelhead and a Japanese Detective (played by Kenya Sawada) that he saved from drowning, the detective swears his life to Steelhead, although his luck is pushed when Steelheads life revolves around crime.
The other important storyline concerns Daniel Wu’s character Jie, early on in the movie they discover he hasn’t gotten the backbone for a life of crime and they chip in to buy him a food-cart, a gift in-which he cherishes, but it seems to bring him no luck. Once the movie reaches the later half, Wu’s character transforms into a joke, the character costume is pretty over the top.
I had no opinion of this movie going into it, I avoided most press and I must admit I really enjoyed this movie.