Find genre cinema all too samey? Fed up of yet another found footage horror followed by yet another Nazi zombie movie? Then check out Tokyo Tribe – a Japanese hip-hop musical crime epic, set in the future. Now that’s a genre far from over-saturated. Of course, uniqueness is no guarantor of quality…
Let’s briefly attempt to explain the plot (“attempt” is the key word there). Each district of future-Tokyo is ruled by a different gang, each with their own hairstyle, clothing, or gender-based gimmick (a gang who are all girls – where do they come up with this stuff?). Naturally, they don’t all get on; enter another gang’s territory and you’re dead.
The most dangerous gangsta of all is Mr. Buppa (Riki Takeuchi), a deranged Elvis Presley lookalike whose over-acting makes Nicolas Cage seem subtle. Sunmi (Nana Seino) is captured by Buppa’s men and made to work in his brothel – but what they don’t know is that she’s desperate to lose her virginity so that her Satanic High Priest father can’t ritually sacrifice her. Then a visit to this brothel by some horny kids from the one ‘nice’ gang goes awry, and all-out war engulfs Tokyo. Got that?
As you may have guessed, the plot doesn’t hold up to being taken seriously, with character motivations very sketchy; the reveal of a villain’s true reason for hating our heroes is genuinely the dumbest twist you’ll ever see. Plus there’s the dodgy gender politics – sure, there’s kind of an effort to make Sunmi an interesting character, but that’s squandered by silly over-sexualisation like the female police officer who, rather impractically, struts around in a short skirt and heels.
What works in Tokyo Tribe’s favour is its madcap energy that, through force of relentless ludicrousness, is difficult to totally dislike. The action is bizarrely over-the-top, a highlight being a CGI battle tank smashing through all laws of physical plausibility as it skids around a corner at high speed. Oh, and it’s a musical – the characters rap their dialogue, and while you may get tired of hearing the same beats for two hours, this does build on the enjoyable daftness and allow for such lines as “fuck you, you’re a monkey-ass wanksta”, “kickin’ some wicked sticky-icky-icky yo” and the unforgettable “dogs before bitches”.
So Tokyo Tribe isn’t by any means a good film, but it’s certainly different to any other film you’ve seen. Which is some kind of achievement, right? Its bizarre OTT shenanigans are perfect drinking game viewing – let us know when you’ve devised a good set of rules.
Extras: Deleted Scenes / Trailer / Making Of / Limited Edition Collectors’ Booklet
INFO: TOKYO TRIBE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: SION SONO / SCREENPLAY: SION SONO / STARRING: RYÔHEI SUZUKI, NANA SEINO, RIKI TAKEUCHI / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 15TH