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Musings from the Edge of Forever

Note: This blog expresses only the opinions of the blog owner,
and does not represent the opinion of any organization or blog
that is associated with RONIN ON EMPTY.

Shinjuku Incident Now Playing in the US

Shinjuku

Fan Bing-Bing and Jackie Chan in Derek Yee’s Shinjuku Incident

Derek Yee’s dark 2009 drama Shinjuku Incident is getting a limited stateside release courtesy of the folks at Barking Cow Distribution.  For now, the film is showing in California, Hawai’i, New Jersey, New York, and Washington. Click here for specific theater listings. I’ve actually already seen the film, albeit on a Singapore Airlines flight, but if I get a chance, I might catch a screening at the AMC Van Ness 14 here in San Francisco. The airline version seemed to be slightly edited for violence, although I don’t think seeing the reinstated footage would do much of a difference in terms of altering my opinion of the film.

In rereading Kozo’s original review, I have to admit that I concur with much of what he has to say. Shinjuku Incident does try to be, as he writes, “an immigrant drama and a gangland thriller.” For what it’s worth, I really liked the immigrant story much more than I did the “emerging criminal empire” angle that emerges halfway through. Part of the reason for the film’s difficulty in transitioning well between the two genres is the casting of Jackie Chan. To be fair, he does a fine job in the role, but — through not fault of his own — he simply can’t transcend his iconic onscreen persona. Jackie Chan’s character, Steelhead, does some very bad things in this movie, but it’s easy to forgive him because of that familiar, affable “I don’t want any trouble” personality he’s cultivated in a myriad of films in the last two decades. We shouldn’t be giving his character a pass during these moments, but strangely, even the worst crimes all feel very justified.

On one hand, you can’t help but wonder, as Kozo does, what the film would’ve been like with a different actor in the lead role, especially someone with less “hero” movie baggage attached to him. But on the other hand, you could also argue that the stunt/against-type casting of Jackie Chan creates a less predictable and more intriguing execution of what is really a very familiar storyline. In that respect, recasting the role might actually make for a more conventional film rather than a better one.

And so, despite whatever quibbles I may have with Shinjuku Incident, I’d recommend checking the film out. Derek Yee is a brilliant filmmaker, and it’s always a welcome sight to see Jackie Chan in an honest-to-goodness Hong Kong film. And believe it or not, Daniel Wu actually steals the show: his initial storyline will break your heart (I actually would’ve preferred an alternate movie in which he struggles as a happy-go-lucky street vendor). The early climax of his “immigrant dream” subplot is pretty sad as…IT ALL GOES TO HELL! Then things get awesome, as Wu’s character morphs into into the Hong Kong equivalent of Kakihara from Ichi the Killer and starts chewing up the scenery left and right. Somewhere along the way, the film then becomes a Greek/Shakespearean tragedy of epic proportions. Roll credits. Let’s just say this ain’t your average night at the movies — HK, US, or otherwise.

Having said that, if the film is playing in your area, feel free to take a break from your tenth viewing of Avatar or abort your first attempt at Dear John, and check out Jackie Chan’s big screen dramatic turn instead. At least you’ll have something interesting to talk about when the movie’s over.

 

One Response to “Shinjuku Incident Now Playing in the US”

  1. RONIN ON EMPTY Says:

    […] playing the aged mentor in The Karate Kid seems like a natural progression for Chan and his role in The Shinjuku Incident seemed like an admirable attempt to show some range, Little Big Soldier offers Chan the perfect […]

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