After several years spent working almost exclusively in the direct-to-video world of “V-cinema” in Japan, Takashi Miike announced himself as a world-class filmmaking talent with this trio of thematically-connected, character-centric crime stories about violence, the underworld of Japanese society, families both real and surrogate, and the possibly hopeless task of finding one’s place in the world. His first films made specifically for theatrical release, and his first for a major studio, the “Black Society Trilogy” was the beginning of Miike’s mature career as a filmmaker and they remain among the prolific director’s finest works. Set in the bustling Kabuki-cho nightlife neighborhood of Tokyo, Shinjuku Triad Society follows a mixed-race cop (Kippei Shiina, Outrage) struggling with private issues while hunting a psychotic criminal (Tomorowo Taguchi, Tetsuo the Iron Man) who traffics in children’s organs. Rainy Dog, shot entirely in Taiwan, is about an exiled yakuza (Dead or Alive’s Show Aikawa) who finds himself saddled with a son he never knew he had and a price on his head after the Chinese gang he works for decides to turn on him. Ley Lines moves from the countryside to the city and back, as three Japanese youths of Chinese descent (including The Raid 2’s Kazuki Kitamura) seek their fortune in Tokyo, only to run afoul of a violent gang boss (Naoto Takenaka, The Happiness of the Katakuris). Three of the most dramatically moving films created by the director, the “Black Society Trilogy” offers clear proof that Miike’s frequent pigeonholing as a specialist in bloody spectacle is only one aspect of his filmmaking career, and taken as a whole, the films are among the finest works ever to deal with the way violence and brutality can unexpectedly destroy even the most innocent of lives.
What We Thought:
Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy is pretty gangster (pun intended). The three films are violent, disturbing, beautiful to look at and did I say violent? Oh yeah, they are violent.
Shinjuku Triad Society is the first film and I think it’s the best. I believe it’s Miike’s first feature film and wow is it dangerous. People might have a hard time with some scenes (anal rape etc.), but it’s extremely well made. A cop is dealing with the mob while his brother, a lawyer, joins the mob. It’s your typical Asian crime drama, but with a lot of style and violence.
Second is Rainy Dog. A Japanese assassin is living in Taiwan taking small jobs when a young mute boy is dropped on his lap. The woman claims he’s the father and the assassin must deal with the son while also dealing with a local crime boss. Add in a prostitute and the new father takes the pair on the run trying to protect them and hide from the local gang.
Third is Ley Lines. I think I might have seen this before because it felt really familiar. A group of Chinese youths living in Japan struggle to make their way in life and eventually find trouble with the local crime syndicate. This came out in 1999 so I might be confusing more recent films with it with similar plots.
All three films look really good on Blu-ray. Miike’s films were gritty and dark to begin with so they don’t, nor should they, look pristine perfect. Rainy Dog is predominantly shot in the rain and it looks great because of it. Audio has easy to hear dialogue and score. Bonus Features include some great interviews with Miike and actor Show Aikawa.
If you like Takashi Miike and haven’t seen his Black Society Trilogy now is your chance. If you have seen them and enjoy them, I highly recommend this new box set. It’s full of great bonus features and 3 of Miike’s most famous films.
- High Definition digital transfers of all three films
- Original uncompressed stereo audio
- Optional English subtitles for all three films
- New interview with director Takashi Miike
- New interview with actor Show Aikawa (Rainy Dog, Ley Lines)
- New audio commentaries for all three films by Miike biographer Tom Mes
- Original theatrical trailers for all three films
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films.
Cast & Crew:
- Takashi Miike
- Show Aikawa
- Kippei Shiina
- Tomorowo Taguchi
Recommended If You Like:
- Asian Crime Dramas
- Takashi Miike