SURVIVE STYLE 5+ (2004)
Five storylines, if they can even be called that, interweave in a dreamlike modern Japanese world in this film that pushes the style-and-visual-over-substance mindset to the limit. The five storylines include Aman (Tadanobu Asano, known for his role in ICHI THE KILLER) who attempts to kill his wife over and over again, only to have her mysteriously return to life; a commercial producer, who has her hypnotist boyfriend murdered in between thinking up bizarre commercials; two philosophical hitmen (including Vinnie Jones of LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS) who murder said boyfriend before being hired by Aman; a salaryman who is hypnotized into thinking he is a bird and how his family deals with his new state of being; and three low-life teen burglars who play the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern roles of the film.
The title of the film plays into the frame of mind one must have before sitting down to watch this movie - can you survive the style of these five (plus) storylines? There is hardly an plot to speak of here, so it relies purely on the hyperkinetic audio and visual aspects of the movie, and the enjoyment of seeing the characters in one truly bizarre set-up after another. This will either put the film on your Top Ten Of The Year list or have you reaching for the remote halfway into the 120 minute running time. To give credit where credit is due, the film is amazing to look at. The house that Aman lives in is almost magical, and you can tell that the art department spent the most time working on these sets. The costumes that each of the characters wear are fantastic as well. They look like they were pulled directly from the sketch book of a fashion designer on acid, or out of a flashy anime series.
For all the hype that this movie has received, it really does fall flat. By having the different storylines so cut up, any sense of motion you get is abruptly cut off when it cuts to the next set of characters. It follows the same progression as PULP FICTION and SNATCH, but to lesser success. This is Gen Sekiguchi's first feature length director role. He also edited the movie. His previous commercial directing gigs certainly show here, but loses speed and interest as the film moves along, until the very end where everything gets as wrapped up as it can be. Buried somewhere under an unkillable wife who breathes fire and can shoot her appendages like missiles, a son who tries to help his father fly like a bird, a hitman obsessed with everyone's function in life, budding gay romance, and a woman whose train of thought is faster than a bullet lies a secret comment on modern life. That comment however, is blurred out by a technicolor landscape and pounding J-Rock. Perhaps Gen Sekiguchi will be able to decipher and elicit his thoughts better when he makes his next movie.