Japan Cuts 2012 Review: ROADSIDE FUGITIVE SR

Dustin Chang, Contributing Writer
Yu Irie (8000 Miles, 8000 Miles 2 and Ringing in Their Ears) returns to this year's Japan Cuts with Roadside Fugitive SR, the third installment of his sleeper hit debut, 8000 Miles. The lovable losers from Saitama- Ikku (Ryusuke Komakine) and Tom (Shingo Mizusawa), are back, still dreaming of that big break at hip-hop stardom.

But the film starts with Mighty, aka Bro(ccoli) (Eita Okuno), the third member of Shogung last seen in the first film, leaving for Tokyo with a more promising rap group, Gokuakucho. Now it's been two years, with a chubby, nagging girlfriend Kazumi in tow, his stint as a construction worker by day and an errand boy for Gokuakucho by night ain't exactly a career he had in mind.

He gets a chance to prove himself at a local freestyle MC battle and is promised a spot on stage with the rest of the group if he made to the finals. Mighty proves his dexterity in rhyming and destroys his opponents with his rapid verbal assault one by one. But to his dismay, when he actually makes it to the final, he is told to take a dive, because his opponent is a wealthy friend of Gokuakucho. Humiliated by the defeat and non-stop abuse, Mighty reaches the boiling point and beats up one of the group members and runs away to Tochi-Gi, a suburb of Tokyo. There he gets involved with a seedy local gang of car thieves and human traffickers.

Ikku and Tom's path crosses with Mighty's in Tochi-Gi, as Shogung auditions for the outdoor festival, arranged by Mighty's boss Norio. After the near disastrous audition, Shogung and the local band Supreme Shogun (members consists of Three Monkeys and Sleepy Cat) decides to combine their talents and perform together after finding out Norio is charging 50 thousand yen for the entering fee per each group and with their shared admiration for the legendary Saitama DJ, TKD (Takeda-sama).

Mighty just can't get a break though. Flat broke, Kazumi opts for turning tricks at the urging of a local club owner. He goes ballistic after he finds it out and knocks the club owner cold with an ashtray. Furthermore, Gokuakucho is in town, invited by Norio to perform at the festival.

It's really fantastic to see Irie mature as a filmmaker with each of his new films. But Roadside Fugitive is a truly giant leap forward. His preferred long takes are well served in two pivotal, dynamic handheld tracking scenes to its thrilling height : one is where Mighty is being chased by angry Gokuakucho gang at night in the rain. You can feel the urgency and desperation of Mighty as he sprints for his life. Then there is the film's climax where Mighty tries to flee his predicament one more time while trying to settle the score with Norio, the gang, the world and himself, rampaging through the outdoor concert venue at night. These prolonged scenes are just as good as any Michael Mann's expensive elaborate getaway set pieces.

But it's Irie's passion for music (in this case, hip-hop) that I'm most impressed with. While skillfully contrasting Ikku and Tom's innocent dreamers with Mighty's desperado, by the end, Irie manages to elevate the film above its seemingly silly material. As with his previous films, music works as a therapy that transcends all the world's problems. Roadside Fugitive SR is a great crowd pleaser that has a lot of heart and passion. Definitely one of the my favorites so far this year.


Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions of the world is found in dustinchang.com

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