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All Critics (14)
| Top Critics (6)
| Fresh (13)
| Rotten (1)
| DVD (1)
Human nature's dark side is the menacing midwife to the stillbirth of '60s idealism in the initially challenging and ultimately riveting United Red Army.
If you're keeping tabs on the recent cinematic reconsideration of 1960s and '70s left-wing terrorism, Wakamatsu's devastating chronicle of the ultra-violent fringe of Japanese student radicalism is a must-see.
Running more than three hours, "United Red Army" is a raw mix of documentary and fiction...
The stilted and awkward physical and vocal performances in combination with the visually flat cinematography bring to mind... American daytime soaps, an association that perversely makes the movie more and more watchable.
The film's commitment to representing the harsh truths of an unfortunate historical moment is admirable, but it tends to grate rather than illuminate.
Grueling [but] engrossing.
Neither glowing hagiography nor glowering condemnation, United Red Army is about the why of that failure -- in exacting detail, and with plenty of time to think it over.
Despite the languorous 190-minute running time, "United Red Army" is a brutal and relentless onslaught.
...historical drama as psychological thriller.
The film has a narrative grip and pitiless portrait of idealism run amok that's hard to resist.
Kôji Wakamatsu's messy, punishing 2008 meta-docudrama about the cult-like sect of 1970s Japanese revolutionaries gets a long-overdue release.
Kôji Wakamatsu's achievement is to show us how that violence can turn as easily inward as it does out.
Just to show that Quentin Tarantino is not the only director who explores history while rifling through multiple genres in epic fashion, along comes "United Red Army" which sticks closer to stated fact whenever possible because sometimes fact is stranger than any fiction.(Like Nixon going to China.) So much so, that this movie resembles a documentary for its first part with occasional pauses to introduce us to various persons of interest. Even then, it is kind of hard to keep track of everybody which becomes important later, and not just because there will be a quiz.
The focus is on the protests in Japan against treaties with the United States that threaten to turn the country into one big aircraft carrier. As the police presence hardens, the protesters become increasingly more confrontational and militant, eventually imagining themselves an army, seeking guns by the end of 1972.
The second part has all the ingredients of a horror movie including an isolated cabin in the woods, lots of young people(mostly in their 20's), sharp pointy things and a body count. At this point, all of the factions of the red army have united into a unified whole which should be the zenith of the movement, but instead proves to be its undoing. Military training metastasizes into a microcosm of the cultural revolution then happening in China, thus rendering a promising force inert. Even worse is that Nagata(Akie Namiki) and Mori(Go Jibiki) use the whole process of Maoist self-critique to settle old scores.(Ironically, Mori had deserted the movement under fire previously but was let back in when most of the leadership had been arrested.) Afterwards, political debates extend to what kind of cookies are anti-revolutionary.(For me, it's mint cookies.) In any case, the most revolutionary behavior should involve kindness, not cruelty.
Even then, this is not the end of the Japanese Red Army, as the endnote lists a group of future actions, including one that was dramatized in "Carlos."
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