DVD Review: Crows Zero 2 / Cert: 15 / Director: Takashi Miike / Screenplay: Shogo Muto / Starring: Shun Oguri, Kyosuke Yabe, Meisa Kuroki / Release Date: July 2nd
During one of their tours, Blur's backstage punch-ups apparently got so bad, at one point they all managed to give each other black eyes. The same kind of thing happens in this brooding teen rumble-fest, where everyone who's anyone ends up with a split lip, a torn and bloodied shirt and a shiner that looks like a squashed tomato.
Crows Zero II follows on directly from Crows Zero, which in turn was based upon a best-selling manga by Hiroshi Takahashi. Haven't seen the first film or read the comic? No matter, the storyline won't tax your powers of comprehension. Pouting bad boy Genji (Shun Oguri) has fought his way up to become top dog at the Suzuran Senior High School for Boys, but he's too narcissistic and self-absorbed to be able to reconcile the various factions of its ultra-violent student body. A failing which becomes a serious problem when the rambunctious skinheads of the Hosen Academy decide to move in and take them down. Can Genji learn values in time to unify the Suzurans into a fighting force capable of repelling the Hosen thugs? Or will he content himself with wandering the mean streets in lonely splendour, cigarette smoke curling from his thin, moody lips? Or maybe he'll do a bit of the moody thing first, before manning up for a balls-out finale? Now how's that for a plan?
Director Takashi Miike moves everything along with his usual pop-promo vividness, but makes little attempt to individualize the characters, who fall into two homogeneous groups – preening alpha males with narrow hips and good cheekbones, and their gurning sidekicks. The urban squalor is piled on, with rolls of barbed wire and graffiti-daubed walls wherever you look. You'd find more subtlety and subtext in a spoonful of wasabi. There's masses of combat, but not of the graceful, highly choreographed martial arts kind. This is fist-fighting in the Western manner, except that no one's learnt how to duck.
Between brawls, there's much posturing and male peacockery. The cast do almost too good a job of mimicking the stylised attitudes of their manga originals – the wistfully tilted head, the narrowed eyes glimpsed through the floppy fringe, the languid cigarette in long-boned fingers. Ladies might well find this aspect of the film quite beguiling – in small doses. But they're just as likely to be dismayed by the near-total absence of female characters (two small roles for women in a cast numbering hundreds) and 130 minutes is a long time to watch even the prettiest boy band types bludgeoning each other until their barnets drip blood.