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新宿事件 (2009)
Shinjuku Incident

Reviewed by: bkasten
Date: 08/31/2012
Summary: Derek Yee and Jackie Chan?

Derek Yee's last film "Protege" irritated and offended me so thoroughly that I went into this film (after waiting several years to watch it) thinking that he would _have_ to redeem himself at some level. And indeed the tripe factor ratcheted down...but only infinitesimally.

The film takes place in Japan and is shown from the perspective of a group of illegal Chinese immigrants who work their way into becoming an organized crime syndicate. The fashion in which the story is told and unfolds really lacks in believability, however. And as a screenplay it pretty thoroughly fails to be convincing. It's rather a series of stitched-together melodramatic vignettes that, while reasonably well performed, lack a realism that one would expect given the subject matter and the viewer's presumption that the filmmakers are trying to be serious. Director Derek Yee's frequent use of cinematic gratuity (such as easily-severed limbs and lingering male-ass-shots, among numerous other items) is nearly as appallingly nauseating as it was in his last film.

As someone who has seen every version of every film he has ever made, I have to say that the casting of Jackie Chan here ranks among the oddest of his career. His supreme physical skill and screen presence as a physical actor are not employed in any fashion whatsoever. Simon Loui could have played this role.

In the modern era (his post-1979/Lo-Wei days), Chan has acted in a fair number of completely serious roles--dating all the way back to 1993 with the excellent but under-appreciated Crime Story. He is certainly capable of playing such roles reasonably well (particularly given one always has an expectation of his clownish side coming out an any time). The last few serious roles he has done (New Police Story and Myth, for example) were pretty good--particularly from the perspective of Chan fanboys (a camp in which this reviewer has long been ensconced). In this film, however, Chan blends in and doesn't really stand out--particularly among the solid performances of Danny "Hong Kong My Ass" Wu and the ubiquitous goddess Fan Bingbing.

This is admittedly a very difficult screenplay subject to tackle, cinematically, and Derek Yee has demonstrated in thoroughly and repeatedly convincing fashion that he is incapable of overcoming such difficulties.

My suspicion and opinion is that Yee has seen greater successes with the lighter and less demanding screenplays he has (mis)handled over his directing career.

Reviewer Score: 5

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 05/06/2012
Summary: Best Jackie Chan performance in years.

This movie features the best Jackie Chan performance in years. Directed by grown-up Shaw Bros. studio kid Derek Yee in this shocking story of expatriated Chinese living in Tokyo, Chan is compelling throughout. Daniel Wu steals the movie with his over-the-top performance. Good solid work from production team makes for engaging visual treat. This one is highly recommended.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 11/14/2011

For the first time... Jackie Chan actually died... and this is the reason they got a 2 star. And a definately good show to educate those who likes to illegally travel and stay in other country... that the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Otherwise, I think the story is boring, uninteresting, and of course the casts didn't really give their full in this movie.

Definately the least action scene in the history of Jackie Chan movie. I think the quite a fair bit of casts are a mis-cast.

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Masterofoneinchpunch
Date: 07/20/2010
Summary: Would you like a hand with your chestnuts?

There is certainly an auteuristic streak in the small amount of cinema I have seen from Derek Yee. His previous film Protégé (2007) dealt with the drug trade in a didactic manner which is similar to the approach this film takes in dealing with illegal immigrants in Japan. Both this and Protégé have a curious and sometimes overacting performance from Daniel Wu (Rob-B-Hood). They also both involve severing an arm. But it is his didactic approach that annoys me a bit in this film. I could not quite verbalize it until watching the extras in which Jackie Chan states that the message of the film was that of “be happy where you are” which is, of course, simplistic and ultimately deadly if you are living in a repressive regime. However, I could forgive a bit of lesson-oriented cinema (I did in Protégé), but there were other issues on the forefront that lessoned my enjoyment of the film.

The biggest issue I think some people will have this is that they will be expecting a “Jackie Chan” film. It is not. I admire Jackie for extending his reach into cinema to take on a decidedly un-charismatic role though this is nowhere near the first time with Crime Story or New Police Story for roles in this vein and for a true antagonistic performance you can go way back to The Killer Meteors (1976). I think his performance is good. I did not think his character, along with several others, was well thought out though.

Jackie stars as “Steelhead” an illegal immigrant in Japan who is looking for his lost love Xiu-Xiu (Xu Jing-lei: The Warlords) who has disappeared at the same time he is trying to just survive. While this is a May-December relationship (she is much younger than he is), nothing is said about this in the film. I am not sure if he was portraying a much younger man (especially due to flashbacks of them younger which would put them close to the same age) or ego was involved or there is just a strange miscasting. He befriends several immigrants like Lily (Fan Bing-bing: Flash Point), Jie (Daniel Wu) who only wants to be a chestnut vendor and Hong Kong Boy (Chin Kar-lok: Protégé) and eventually has a relationship with Lily in a vastly underused plotline that gets exploited in the end that left me vastly unsatisfied.

Meanwhile two big things happen: he saves the life of Inspector Kitano (Takenaka Naoto) who is in charge of enforcing immigration and he also saves the life of Eguchi Toshinari (Kato Masaya) who happens to have a high position in the Yakuza and coincidently is also married to his former sweetheart Xiu-Xiu. The sheer coincidence of Jackie saving several lives seemed a too fortuitous but also those scenes go completely against some of the decisions he makes later in the film. It is like Yee wanted him to do evil things to show the depths someone can go to when they are pushed to the brink, but his character remains almost ignorant of them even though he committed some heinous atrocities in the name of helping out himself (to procure a “legal” Japanese ID) and his fellow immigrants. Soon you will see a rise of Scarface proportions with Steelhead serving directly under Eguchi as well as with his Steelhead’s friends most notably Jie who turns into a drug using anime looking character.

The strength of the film is in particular scenes such as the plethora of issues that are presented to the illegal immigrant from not speaking the language, locals who do not want you there, loneliness, poverty and odd jobs like cleaning the sewers that no one else wants to do. This is a familiar situation to many countries. I do wish that a bit more was spent on why they wanted to leave in the first place. The film had such promise early on that the varied contrivances of the plots and characters started to get more and more overbearing. I think part of the reason was that the director Derek Yee had been working on this for so long and wanted to put so much of what he learned about the topic in one film that a compendium of characters was shoved into Jackie Chan and others that so much seemed contrived.

If you have seen Protégé and liked it, then it is possible that you will like this as well. If you are specially looking for a stereotypical Jackie film you will most likely dislike it. The action here is presented more realistic so everything appears clumsier. There are times when you expect Jackie to break out and use weapons or handle multiple bad guys with ease, but that is not a fault of the film and is more my preconception. I have read positive reviews on this film (I disagree with them) though most do tend to talk about “plot problems” and several seem to give this a passing mark solely because of the good performance from Chan. While I was happy enough with his performance the myriad of character and plot inconsistencies for me was the biggest reason I am giving this movie a mediocre review.

The Sony R1 release of it is good. Be warned there are three different English subtitles. One for the dubbed released, one for the dubbed release added with hard-of-hearing and one for the Chinese version. It technically is not completely dubtitles, but it did not always vary that much from the English soundtrack. I easily prefer the original audio track because you get to hear the many different languages used that are lost on the English dub. There are two extras: selected scenes commentary with Jackie Chan (9m) and Say Hello to the Bad Guy (10m) which is a good extra that talks about how long Derek was working on this, the suicide of an actor (not mentioned) who was going to play the role in the film, why the film lost the Mainland China market and various tidbits that make it worth of a watch. Both are short and easily worth the watch to learn more about this film.

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 06/11/2010

Steelhead (Jackie Chan) becomes an illegal immigrant in Japan searching for his lost lover. Struggling to make ends meet, he reluctantly turns to organised crime, escalating his criminal activities and threatening the lives of his friends and family.

I don’t mean to damn with faint praise, although that’s what I’m going to be sounding like when I say that SHINJUKU INCIDENT isn’t too bad. It has a fair dollop of melodrama, but is surprisingly watchable.

The story itself is pretty routine, but is interesting enough to hold your attention. It’s like a lot of Triad/Yakuza movies, a gritty (and often grotty) tale of the Underworld with revenge, loyalty and brotherhood. There’s a friendly cop who will turn a blind eye to Steelhead’s criminal activity because he saved his life, as well as salt-of-the-earth family members who are collateral damage to his new-found life of crime. Daniel Wu plays Jie, one of Steelhead’s closest friends. I normally think Wu is pretty solid, acting-wise, but I thought he hamming it up here, and I didn’t really buy his character.

Of course, all eyes are on Jackie Chan as Steelhead here, and his much-touted attempt at a serious role. A lot of comparisons are made with the 1992 flick CRIME STORY (and the post-modern Jackie Chan movie NEW POLICE STORY), but let’s face it, CRIME STORY (decent though it was) played safe by adding some action scenes. SHINJUKU INCIDENT is completely free of the kind of thing that makes people watch Jackie Chan movies. Which does kind of leads to the question of why you’d want to watch a film with Jackie Chan in it if he’s not being Jackie Chan. I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying this, but I’m of the opinion that his strengths are in the loveable, mugging, underdog character he’s portrayed since 1978’s SNAKE IN THE EAGLE'S SHADOW, and not as a serious actor. That he makes a decent go at it only made it more difficult for me to accept his casting here.

The sex scene is a case in point. Does anyone really want to see Jackie Chan having sex - even if it’s just on screen? Watching Chan on the job is like seeing your favourite kindly uncle having sex - and not with your auntie.

These points aside, there’s no denying that this is an interesting, enjoyable movie, even if I’d stop somewhere short of calling it gripping. Its primary appeal ironically is probably people who don’t like Jackie Chan films. Certainly if you don’t like his usual on-screen persona, that should not put you off watching SHINJUKU INCIDENT.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 07/25/2009
Summary: Good

Jackie Chan plays Steelhead, a man who illegally emigrates to Japan to find his would-be wife. He looks up his friend Jin (Daniel Wu), and finds the Chinese in Japan are regulated to doing bad jobs for little money. Wanting to become a legal citizen, Steelhead starts doing petty crimes to earn the money for a fake ID. This attracts the attention of both the cops and the gangs in the area...

Shinjuku Incident is a good, not great, gangster drama, really only notable for the fact that this is one of Jackie Chan's rare "straight" dramatic roles. There are a couple of small fights here and there, but those fans expecting rip-roaring brawls had better look elsewhere. Chan's acting chops aren't quite up to what the material demands, but the strong supporting cast helps out tremendously, and make this worth a watch if you like Triad/Yakuza shenanigans.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: dandan
Date: 04/03/2009
Summary: i just want to sell chestnuts...

it is the early 1990s and steelhead (jackie chan) is one of the many illegal chinese immigrants, who has arrived in japan. once there, he heads to tokyo and meets up with jie (daniel wu), a friend from back home, but he is not the reason he has gone to japan. xiu xiu (xu jing-lei), his former girlfriend is; it has been three years since she left and he lost touch with her a while ago.

along with jie and a clutch of others, steelhead begins to find bits of work and makes friends with lily (fan bing-bing), a chinese girl who has done well for herself in tokyo and now owns a hostess bar. as steelhead gets to know more about tokyo, he starts to make money through less than legal ways. one day, he discovers that xiu xiu is now married to eguchi (kato masaya), a powerful yakuza boss. when fate brings steelhead and eguchi together, steelhead and his gang begin on the road to bigger things, although there are plenty of japanese who resent this...

well, i find derek yee films to be hit-and-miss; for every hit ('the lunatics' and 'one night in mongkok') there are misses ('drink drank drunk' and 'protege') - this, however, falls somewhere in between. the first two thirds of the film, which deal with steelheads arrival and acclimatisation in japan, then the rise of his gang in the underworld of shinjuku, respectively, are both pretty strong. sure, it's not a particularly innovative or new tale and it has been covered in many films which chart someone's rise to power in the underworld, but the location and groups involved, along with yee's handling of them, make it a pretty good watch.

chan, although not redefining himself in any great way, does a good job, as does daniel wu (to be expected, really), whilst the support from fan bing-bing (swoon...), lam suet and chin kar-lok, amongst others, is solid. oh, and takenaka naoto, who i have always liked a lot, does some good work as the cop, inspector kitano, who keeps crossing paths with steelhead.

unfortunately, despite the strength of the opening, the final third is weak and kinda lets the film go out with a whimper. i'm sure you can probably guess where the film is heading, as there are plenty of signposts along the way and these films tend to follow a very similar arc, but it just isn't handled very well. perhaps, if more focus had been directed towards this element of the film, it would come across more strongly. still, without giving specifics about what happens, you could say that the narrative does, in a way, reflect steelhead's perspective on events, but maybe this wasn't the best course to take with it.

reasonable, but not good...