Ley Lines Movie Review
Like the first two films, Ley Lines concerns itself with outsiders trying to navigate both an insular Japan and the even more insular -- and violent -- world of organized crime in Tokyo. But this story begins out in the sticks. Black sheep Ryuchi (Kazuki Kitamura) can't wait to break the bounds of his boring country life by moving to the big city to look for trouble. His younger brother Shunrei (Michisuke Kashiwaya) disapproves, but after all of Ryuchi's friends, with the exception of the excitable Chan (Tomorowo Taguchi), chicken out on joining the adventure, Shun decides to tag along.
No sooner do the three arrive in Tokyo then they find themselves robbed by the pickpocket prostitute Anita (Dan Li), who, like the guys, is half-Chinese and therefore looked down upon in Japanese society. Desperate for money, they quickly find themselves jobs peddling an illegally brewed narcotic paint thinner on the streets of Tokyo.
The movie follows parallel plot lines (or "ley lines," I guess) as Anita is abused more and more obscenely by both her pimps and her johns -- Miike is unmatched in bringing nearly unwatchably kinky sex to the screen -- and the three guys get deeper into the gangs of Tokyo, hooking up with a Chinese mafia kingpin and then hatching a very misguided plot to rob him and use the money for illegal passage to Brazil, land of the samba.
Anita is now one of the gang, her path having crossed Shun's after an especially harrowing trick. It's quite a sight to see her stumbling down a crowded street in the Ginza all bloody and beaten with no one paying her any attention but Shun, who wants his wallet back, after all. The robbery eventually goes down in a burst of bloody gunfire, and the gang escapes to the countryside, but they're not safe yet, and before the story ends, there will be plenty more Miike-style bloodshed.
Despite all the sex and violence, Miike manages to create human characters whose individual personalities come across powerfully. This really matters because it's important for us to care when they find themselves in peril. Otherwise we're just watching a gory video game with no access to the joystick.
A director as incredibly prolific as Miike is destined to run hot and cold, and Ley Lines turns out to be lukewarm. It's better and more engaging than some of his most convoluted and incomprehensible yakuza epics but less interesting than some of the truly bizarre movies that have made him famous worldwide.
Aka Nihon kuroshakai.
Row row row your yakuza.