Kurôzu zero II (Crows Zero II) (2009)
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The original Crows Zero while loud and nonsensical tried to tell a story. To it credit it didn't entirely fail giving development to why fighting for hierarchy in high school is held with so much importance to its characters, but neither did it succeed in providing engaging characters to hold the viewers attention the same way the many fight scenes did. In many ways Crows Zero 2 feels similar the original in that it's trying to tell a story, but repeats similar problems of the original while toning down the amount of fighting. It matches the original in quality of the original for different reasons.
Crows Zero 2 tells the story of Genji and his victorious G.P.S. alliance who find themselves facing down a new challenge by the students of Hosen Academy, feared by everyone as 'The Army of Killers. It's a direct continuation from the "Crows Zero" with characters condensing events from the first film. It has allot more characters and even less characterization to prevent them from being engaging. A huge chunk of the film is spent seeing Genji attempting to unite all of Suzuran under his leadership. Since the film is focus on showing Genji ineptness as a leader having to earn respect among different internal cliques. Tendency to jump around from character to character to fill it run time is common. Making its intention unclear and the meaning of the story becomes muddle among its many subplots. In particular the one subplot that receives the most attention revolves around a teenager who is desperate to become a gangster which has no bearing to the main story line. If it has nothing to do with the main story chances are what occurs in a subplot will not affect course of the main story. Another narrative departure is it being more grounded compare to the previous entry. Whereas the first entry occasionally had zany scenes like human bowling "Crows Zero 2" has none of that. However, the story has it merits in that it's easier to follow who is in what faction because this time it two schools going against each other instead of many faction within the same building fight each other. The subplots generally don't play much into how the main story plays out, but what occurs in them do have complete character arcs brought together by a central theme. New and old characters are given simple to understand motivation to easily grasp their position in this whole "war" between schools. While it feels similar because of repeating issues it does tell a new story and a central theme that reassures things are moving forward. Whereas the first one was carry by ego the sequel is carry by putting away differences for a singular threat. Character growth, what little there is in this franchise is very much appreciated, even if you do question how in the world these teenagers graduate from high school when never once do they attend classes.
Behind the camera Takashi Miike delivers a solid direction that restraints his usual techniques. Since the film the is more grounded so is his direction so there's no odd camera movement or editing techniques that would tell you Miike directed the film. Given the story direction it's rather fitting Miike delivered the story the way intended without ego. Maintaining the mindset of its character through rock heavy soundtrack that fuels the desire to see a fight unfold. His energy best demonstrated in the fight scenes that are bigger and in particular the last twenty minutes is nothing but fighting. The fight choreography is not complex with fighters mostly punching opponents hardly ever using their legs for kicks. Miike makes up for the simple choreography with exaggerated durability as a single student can successfully defend himself against an army of students. Thanks to exaggerated durability each actor is given something to do in the background. In fight scenes there's always something going on even if the actor the camera is focus on is looking for the next person to beat up. While it lacks the diverse location of the first entry it's compensated with the climax which starts out on the outside of Hosen high school and eventually goes inside until the protagonist reaches the top. It does look like there fighting in a high school with the fight visually appearing as big as they are. Occasionally tight close up will show just how crowded a hall of fighters feels like, but won't sure the whole picture. Although, Miike makes sure to use wide shot to show everything going on in a fight when deemed appropriate. Fighters are also distinguishable due to opposite color in school uniforms so who's fighting who is never lost. Actors from the first film return and their performances are limited to a couple facial expressions. Mostly recycling their mannerism, movement, and line delivery from the first time they played the role. Appearance wise none of them look or act like high schoolers, but given the film theme is slightly forgivable.
Crows Zero 2 feels the same like the first entry in many ways. It's attempts to tell a story and developed characters, but with too much going on at once all emotion becomes lost and coherent meaning gets jumble as it plays out. This in part results in the sequel containing significantly less fight scenes that are bigger mostly suffer from repetitive choreography mostly with forward punches. For every wrong it does it takes two steps forward for creating a better film. It will feel like you're watching the same movie due to both entries sharing similar problems, but delivers a difference experience that matches the entertainment provided in the original. The story side of Crows Zero 2 is sloppy, but Miike delivery of the messy story and technical prowess reassures another solid film is made under his direction.
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