The City of Lost Souls (Hyôryû-gai) (2001)
Critic Reviews for The City of Lost Souls (Hyôryû-gai)
There's enough atmosphere, mayhem and just plain energy to make the film a viable midnight movie, a more appropriate slot than a regular run.
While the film throws a solid pop punch, you could still swear you've seen it all before.
[Miike's] work is fun to look at but emotionally unengaging, perhaps because he can't summon enough belief in his pulp-fiction characters to make them come alive.
An empty, incoherent exercise in frenetic style, interesting primarily for its cosmopolitan flavor.
Yet another "Yakuza" (gangster) film, Miike crafts what amounts to a stylish and interesting film, but not one that can sustain a midnight madness audience.
Tireless Japanese splatter director Takashi Miike's keeps his own worst impulses check, and the payoff is a satisfying and uncharacteristically romantic film.
Audience Reviews for The City of Lost Souls (Hyôryû-gai)
It's not uncommon for films by Takashi Miike to make little to no sense and 'The City Of Lost Souls' is no exception. Plot wise the film is an average yakuza/action story, and is eerily reminiscent (yet not nearly as good as) 'True Romance' as it sees two lovers end up with a briefcase full of cocaine and on the run from those who want it back. Although the story itself if fairly simple it is distorted my the film's omniscient nature and becomes hard to follow easily. Despite an unoriginal plot and convoluted narrative TCOLS manages to distinguish itself in a variety of ways, allowing it to become an original experience in its own right. Take, for example, the manic way in which the film is edited,with jump cuts incorporated in a seemingly random manner every couple of seconds and counterpoised against long, somewhat beautiful, shots of the harsh environment and the characters inhabiting it. Miike's direction is apparent in the small flourishes that frequent (in a similar fashion to 'DEAD OR ALIVE: HANZAISHA' and other early works) throughout the film: a dwarf brushes his teeth with cocaine, CGI rendered cock fights see chickens performing matrix style slow motion kicks, a man has sex with a pig, and, my personal favourite, death by Ping Pong. Although not uncommon by this point these moments are always welcome and help establish the films wacky personality while somewhat distracting you from its other problems. Although there are obvious issues throughout the film (I'm yet to mention the bad acting and large amount of two dimensional characters) it seldom reaches moments of deranged brilliance; the scene that sees our protagonist, Mario, eliminate a whole office full of yakuza with a shotgun is undeniably exciting and the final two scenes add a whole different element to the film that beckons for a re-watching. Overall, although not a bad movie, TCOLS fails to stand up against Miike's stronger offerings.
The City of Lost Souls is sprawling, and at times meandering and unfocused, but you have to applaud Miike's inventiveness and the way he plays with form and technique. Sure, the plot, performances and general tone is completely over the top, but if you can look past that (which, truth be told, is tough to do), you'll see some terrific long takes, very compelling and unique camera angles (including a toilet POV shot), thought-provoking examples of mise-en-scene, well choreographed action scenes, and some weird Matrix and Blade spoofs. Miike has been called the "wild man of Japanese cinema," and indeed no other film will cement that point like The City of Lost Souls.
I can't help but feel like Miike was just fucking with me. And while I probably won't watch it again, it is worth a midnight viewing if you happen to be in the mood for a truly bizarre & blood-soaked experience. Alcohol is recommended.
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