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Bad City - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Bad City

Japan 2022

Action, Crime

Kensuke Sonomura

Hitoshi Ozawa
Masanori Mimoto
Akane Sakanoue
Lily Franky
Tak Sakaguchi
Masaya Kato
Mitsu Dan
Taro Suwa
Kentaro Shimazu
Koji Kiryu

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Bad City

Bad City - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Kaiko City is ruled by the underworld. At the very top is Gojo (Lily Franky), a successful businessman who has just been cleared of charges of corruption and violence. Since Gojo does business with the Korean mafia and has so much power in the city now that he even wants to run in the next mayoral election, one of the few non-corrupt prosecutors decides to put together a team in order to stop his activities. The team is led by Torada (Hitoshi Ozawa), who is in prison for a murder he did not commit. He had become too dangerous for Gojo. Among others, the policeman Ryota (Masanori Mimoto) and the rookie Megumi (Akane Sakanoue) work under him. While Gojo wants to redevelop an urban area with the help of the Korean mafia in order to build a casino there and gain even more power, the special unit is looking for the survivor of the Sakurada yakuza, whose boss and family were massacred on behalf of the leader of the Korean mafia, Kim Seung-gi. The survivor might possess evidence that could put Kim and also Gojo behind bars. However, there are constant shifts in the power structure and Torada has to deal with his first setbacks. Even if he were to win, his victory would entail a lot of bloodshed...

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Bad City - Film Screenshot 4

Review: After his impressive "Hydra", a low-budget production that hardly felt like one, genre fans eagerly awaited Kensuke Sonomura's next action movie. And in fact, the director manages to make everything look a little more polished and bigger in "Bad City". This time, even the story can keep up with the action. This is especially impressive because, on closer inspection, the flick didn't have a huge budget either. But the director is not only able to make excellent use of the money at hand, this time we also get some familiar faces who allow "Bad City" to keep up with more expensive productions. Above all else, though, many will be thrilled by the fact that you feel like being transported back to 90s cinema, where everything was a bit grittier and the heroes were pretty gruff. Even though, that means that we also get some long-forgotten clichés, playing with the nostalgia factor still works here.

Bad City - Film Screenshot 5

Let's stay with the clichés for a moment. There we have the aged ex-policeman who walks around in a leather jacket beating confessions out of gangsters, always takes a pull on a cigarette between his answers, and who is generally short-spoken, but basically has his heart in the right place. Hitoshi Ozawa, who is not only known for movies like Takashi Miike's "Dead or Alive", fits perfectly into this role, and above all, at the age of 60, he still has the physical fitness to deliver some impressive action. The ex-cop seems completely old-fashioned, just like the rest of the movie, but that's also the charm of "Bad City". In addition, we get a story about the yakuza and the Korean mafia, which is pretty entangled, so that there are also some unexpected alliances. It doesn't hurt either that Lily Franky ("Shoplifters") is allowed to portray the villain, which completes the overall picture.

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It's a bit of a pity, though, that Masanori Mimoto, who was playing the lead in "Hydra", gets a rather minor role here as the detective. In addition, he is not allowed to show all of his martial arts expertise either, which is quite disappointing. This is particularly irritating, as the director took Tak Sakaguchi ("Re:Born") on board for his latest work. Tak's ultra-fast movements are once again part of the story and even leads to him being the only one who's able to dodge bullets. This could have turned out pretty ridiculous, but since there is no slow motion or anything like that, you just accept it as one of the movie's peculiarities, and Tak... well, he actually does something like that in almost every flick he's in anyway. The sad thing is, however, that you had Tak Sakaguchi and Masanori Mimoto in one production and the director didn't make more out of it. At first, we have a short, promising confrontation in which the director bows to Donnie Yen's and Wu Jing's fight in "SPL", but later the fueled expectations cannot be fulfilled.

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Still, the style of the fights is a big plus of the movie, even though it may not speak to everyone. The altercations seem improvised and the more you know about martial arts, the more fun you will have with them, because the trained eye will see how one technique does not work, especially in the many throwing attempts or ground fighting moments, so that the next one is quickly improvised, only to then be countered again. But if you don't have any contact with martial arts, MMA or at least boxing, you might only see scuffling here. Nevertheless,, the action is exceptional and gets the adrenaline flowing as the fights look pretty authentic. What doesn't work quite as well, though, are the mass brawls with baseball bats and knives, which were borrowed from yakuza movies or Korean gangster flicks.

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A nice bonus is the story, though. It has various developments in store, but luckily, doesn't overcomplicate things despite various names being thrown around. You can keep track of everything at all times, and you get some interesting supporting characters, but sometimes you also have to wonder if the movie didn't overdo it a little with all the different parties and their entanglements. Yet, you can't help but get the impression that this is supposed to be reminiscent of genre classics. Unfortunately, the movie takes itself too seriously at that and lacks a self-ironic touch. You are not really drawn into it on an emotional level either. Since there is also a Korean mafia and, as mentioned before, a lot of baseball bats being wielded, I sometimes thought how nice it would have been if the movie had worked as good as "A Dirty Carnival" did on a dramatic level. But you can be quite impressed with the fact that director Kensuke Sonomura, with a few exceptions of some strange camera angles, once more stepped up his game and managed to not only create a successful action movie, but also a well-made gangster flick with some 90s flair. You can't help but look forward to his next work.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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