Book & Film Reviews


This movie should have started with the credibility booster that is "Sometime in the near future" where it's slave labour underground and games of death would have not seemed so removed from the present day. Based on a manga that deals with a secret society that gathers wealth and power by crippling the poor with huge interest on money loans (sound familiar?) Kaiji Ito (Tatsuya Fujiwara) plays a friend of a young man who disappears with huge debts, as Kaiji is the guarantor of these debts a loan shark makes him an offer he can't really refuse - a series of games where the stakes are very high. The first game is a twist on rock,paper,scissors (no really) where the players have to get rid of twelve rock,paper,scissors cards without losing some gold stars in under thirty minutes. The problem is the interest on their debts will incrue at 1% per minute! There's plenty of double crossing and sleight of hand trickery that was a part of the manga and has been faithfully reproduced here. Act 2 is set in the slave labour underground where the debtors work for "perica" fake money worth even less than pocket money! Cold beer and snacks are available on payday at a special price (ie expensive) Our hero decides to choose the "Brave Men's Road" which is definitely the weakest part of the film, the overcooked melodrama should have been reigned in slightly, however it's worth sitting through to get to Act 3 which delivers some real psychological tension. The director just needed a really good editor to cut the 2 hour 10 minute running time down to a mean and lean 96 minutes. Despite this problem it's still an enjoyable movie and proof that modern Japanese pop cinema has a few aces to play.

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