6 06 2011

Shinjuku Incident

Underground Japan


Two men, Steelhead, a migrant worker from China, and Kitano, the detective who hunts illegal Gastarbeiters in Japan, are caught in the middle of an unfolding mob war in the very core of a heavy personal drama, set in Tokyo.

A clear cut devotion to a code of honor unites two men from two distinctly different and opposing walks of life.

When Steelhead saves Kitano’s life in the beginning of the movie, we witness chemistry between the two, an unuttered understanding. When they later move to solve the crisis they became part of, we are hooked and seek to find out whether the two will clash or bond in the end.

The movie is built on an intense plot with a tragic story that stands on social contrast and brings to light shady and unsolicited brutal details of how far a battle for survival can take you. Beneath layers of consumerist glamour, there’s a well concealed life of pain and misery. As a rule people don’t really want to go there, but Jackie Chan and his crew make it a point to sober us up and make us see the naked truth.

This film is a shocker. It doesn’t offer an escape into a surreal fun world where everything is peachy. Jackie Chan here is on top of his new game as a drama actor and he does well. His character has been through a lot and lives through many controversial choices. Steelhead tries to trick his consciousness into a compromise, but doesn’t succeed even when swept away by the waves of criminal unrest. Kitano, in turn, is played with a classy Japanese reserved flavor. He walks the city to protect his people and in the end learns quite a bit about what life is really made of.

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

  View the trailer for Shinjuku Incident



3 03 2011

The Karate Kid 

The Buzz Of The Summer 2010   


It opens with a farewell, a goodbye to the past, to painful memories and places that trigger these memories. An American teen is set to explore the Orient and to discover that there’s more to life than movies and videogames.

His ordeal, however, turns out to have an ugly twist – bullying. This, to me, is a very good call by the movie makers, since bullying is one of the most tragic and persistent problems in modern schools and needs special attention. The kid learns one life lesson after another, but it all boils down to the old as the world abuse of power, skill and an entrusted position. Pretty meat-and-potato, and not very innovative, however the real kick is not so much in the otherwise tedious plot – it’s literally in… the kick.

Most kung fu action movies tend to be nothing else but study guides for both dummies and professionals alike, under the pretense of promoting character and values. Children of today usually pick that up really quickly and know to tell the difference between a genuine role model and a phony power figure with overblown muscles. In other words, can’t fool the kids.

What The Karate Kid of 2010 does well is showing the beauty of hard work and perseverance, the rewards of patience and adherence to long-term journeys to perfection over quick fixes, something the new generation of teens won’t take from their parents, teachers and caretakers. They need to hear it from someone on their own level, someone who speaks their language and can stir them in the right direction. Youth nowadays is generally overexposed to violence, and it really does feel like a gulp of fresh air to have someone walk in with a statement that true power is not in the count of one’s victims, but in the integrity to keep away from fights and earn respect by turning one’s weakness into strength in an honest competition.

There’s enough smiles and enough tears in this movie. It reads as an open book and everybody is welcome to be a part of it, to find something to identify oneself with. It is not a typical martial arts manual going from one stance to another in the matter of split seconds and leaving you there watch and drool because you can only dream of making at least one move with that much effectiveness and grace, but rather is a dramatic, quick and at the same time exceptionally entertaining presentation of a hidden potential within a human.

The Karate Kid 2010 doesn’t teach children how to fight. It teaches them how to stand up to painful and often unpleasant life experiences. It also teaches them how to see when looking, and to hear when listening.

The movie ends with a surprisingly poetic capture – a snake stance, employed when all other ways won’t work, leaving an impression of a seal stamp on a haiga of a master that is used to finalize the narration. Yet, somehow the viewer knows that the story has just began…

Copyright Camilla Stein ©2011. All rights reserved.

View the official The Karate Kid (2010) trailer

%d bloggers like this: