Starring : Jackie Chan / Daniel Wu / Masaya Kato
Directed by : Derek Yee - 2009
copyright© Emperor Motion Pictures/Emperor Dragon Movies Ltd 2009
Jackie Chan is back this time in a gritty drama directed by Derek Yee, in a story penned by him.The film is set in and around the Nineties when a lot of Chinese immigrants fled China for a better life by the means of getting in to Japan illegally only to find that what waited for them was a seedy and dangerous world where they had to hide from the Police and do the jobs that no one wanted to do for half the wage .
On top of this the Locals despised them for doing the work at cheap rates and the people that employed them exploited them.So the other way to get money was to steal ,and sell illegal goods on the black market working in and around the local yakuza run gangs .What waited for them was a life of crime and violence .
The story starts in a local Chinese village in China where Steelhead (Jackie) is a humble tractor repairman who is wooing his long time sweetheart Xiu Xiu (Xu Jinglei).One day Xiu Xiu tells Steelhead that her aunt in Japan says she should visit her and talking to Steelhead he agrees she should as it would be a learning experience for her.So she leaves for Japan now she plans to stay a while and write to Steelhead but after a while the contact stops and her family get concerned at what may have happened to her .
It is at this point that it is left to Steelhead to get to Japan to look for his girlfriend, he has a relation in Japan and with help from locals and the odd illegal immigrant shipper he lands along with about a hundred other Chinese looking for the rich life on the outskirts of the city only to be discovered by the local Police officer who they append smack about steal his gun and run.it is here that you see how gritty this is gonna get .Now Steelhead arrives in the city looking for his relations place of habitat after a long trek and witnessing the poverty that awaits him he arrives at Jie's (Daniel Wu)residence it is here that he is introduced to a plethora of Chinese immigrants staying in the same place with Jie ,among them is a who's who of Asia cinema ( Ken Lo,Chin kar Lok,Lam Suet)
Now Steelheads aim here is to find Xiu Xiu and to get by wants to find work so to get by with help from his new found family he works as a rubbish clearer in a dump but has to flee when a accident happens and some one calls the police ,then as a cleaner in the sewage system again only to be found by the police and caught but when a struggle ensues the Immigrants flee only to be chased and when one police man Inspector Kitano(Naoto Takenaka) struggles with Steelhead the inspector is left in the sewage ,but unable to swim Steelhead saves him and flees.
Now Steelheads next job is washing dishes at a local restaurant and when a young lady gives him some money to get food she leaves with her client only to be confronted by hoodlums at this point Steelhead comes to the rescue and this is the start of the a relation ship with the young lady who's name is Lily (Fan Bing Bing).
Now Steelhead is out with Jie one Night when they come across a lot of attention surrounding a local crime boss Euguchi (Masaya Kato)it is here that he finds his long lost love ,but as the Crime bosses woman .She enters his car but not with out seeing Steelhead first .Steelhead is subdued by Jie as if he were to get involved he would be killed.So form here Steelheads pretty depressed ,
You would be you have searched for your girlfriend for ages traveled illegally to Japan done dirty jobs chased by police only to find she's living with the local Yakuza Boss in luxury.Heh i would go home ,or in Steelheads case he wakes up and takes note that the only way to survive is to enter the crime world by selling phone cards stolen and fake ,and stealing goods from shops and warehouses so they can sell them to the black market traders at a nice profit ,and all is going well for him as this petty criminal living amongst his friends and becoming closer to Lily.They even all pitch in to buy Jie a Chestnut stall as he gets nervous stealing goods and such.
They even have a hooky panchinko machine in a local club which is fixed to pay out all the time.Now unfortunately Jie has a interest in a local bosses daughter who has Yakuza protection and when he is seen touching her he is coxed to there bar and beaten to hell and upon arriving back home this seems to much for Steelhead who goes and confronts the Boss along with his friends who finally arive a short while after .A fight ensues and this is no martial art fight like your used to seeing with Jackie this is a bars and bats street fight that sends a message across.
But other then that all is well until once again Jie is asked to look after the Panchinko machine for five minutes while his friend spends a penny,but poor old Jie is caught by the owners of the parlor and taken out side and beaten to an inch of his life only then to be tortured by his own Chestnut cart and in the result losing his hand just before Steelhead and the others arrive but with the arsenal the gangs have ,Swords and machetes they have no choice but to flee and without recovering Jie's hand.
This torments Steelhead and he vows to avenge his friend and this is where the movie gets really gritty as Steelhead sneaks in to the Panchinko parlor's offices in a attempt to kill the boss only to find that they have plans to kill the local Yakuza boss Euguchi and his wife (His long lost Girlfriend).
Euguchi arrives and is attacked by the gang only to be saved by Steelhead who is hiding beneath a chair and when he comes out he slices off the arm of the the thug that hurt his friend and helps Euguchi escape.Now Euguchi thanks and trys to pay him but Steelhead refuses and Euguchi recognizes him from the night he saw him looking at his wife .He invites him to his house where he meets Xiu Xiu for the first time since China as he believes Steelhead to be a friend from his wifes village, and as Euguchi does not speak Chinese they discuss their Situation and Steelhead leaves .
But Euguchi can see there is more here and comments to his wife about the relation ship between her and Steelhead.Shortly after wards Euguchi finds Steelhead to thank him once again and to offer him work ,he wants him to kill two Yakuza leaders so he can gain control.Steelhead agrees on one condition ,he gets control of Shinjuku.You know now that this film is getting grimmer by the minute and seeing Steelhead kill two people ( one who is played by legendary karate master Yasuaki Kurata)
What follows is Steelheads passport to a life as a crime lord but in his heart he just wants to live a humble life and gives control to his friends while he wants to run a legitimate business with his new girl friend Lily ,The thing is here is what his friends do is run riot and Jie with the help of Euguchi deals drugs and basically becomes a pain in the backside with his bullish ways,but the ploy here is to rid Shinjuku of Steelhead and Euguchi's enemies and the cop that's trying to nail him (Kitano)
But Kitano has gone to Steelhead and warned him that his friends are doing wrong ,dealing drugs and Steelhead agrees to try to talk to them to imprison Euguchi and stop the life of crime they have lived on.But al this is not going to be accepted by them and Euguchi is waiting for him along with another Yakuza leader who has permission from the heads of the YAKUZA to rid the world of Euguchi and Steelhead
So how does this film wrap up well i will leave it to you to find out but one thing is for sure this is a landmark film for Jackie Chan in that he gives a performance of a life time in this ,even though he has done more series films before like Crime Story and New police story was not really that light heart' ed and along with a brilliant cast including Ken Lo ,Daniel Wu,Yasuaki Kurata ,and Naoto Takenaka what you have here is a film that will grab hold of you and not let go till the end and then it stays in your head for ages .
Along with that this is the two disc edition which comes with a making of feature and trailers and deleted scenes,so all in all a class package of a first rate film that everyone should see.It may not be martial art orientated but the battles that feature are gritty and stunt laden which you can expect from Jackie Chan,but on top of that Jackie's character portrays him trying to be a better person in life against high odds,and in a way it portrays his own beliefs as to how you should be or how he really is. This is truly a fine film.The Snake Score out of Ten = 9
Review Date: August 2009