Story: Genji Takaya (Shun Oguri) is transfered to Suzuran High School where teachers have nothing to say and
students are part of organized gangs whose leaders strife for becoming the one and only ruler of Suzuran High. Genji
also has vowed to become that person in order to impress his father, a yakuza boss, and one day take his position
in the organization. However, the power struggle at school doesn't prove as easy as the newcomer might have expected
since he doesn't make any progress with using his fists only. The current soon-to-be boss of the school is Tamao Serizawa
(Takayuki Yamada), who has an impressive army of subordinates at his disposal. Therefore, it seems that Genji first
has to find more men which is why he tries to earn the respect of rivalling gangs in order to get them to join him.
This is a truely difficult task, but luckily he has Ken Katagiri (Kyosuke Yabe), a low-rank yakuza member, helping
him with words and deeds. It seems as if an all-changing duel between Genji and Tamao is inevitable...
Review: Takeshi Miike is well-known for his disturbing and ultra-violent movies such as "Ichi - The Killer" to
name only one. "Crows Zero", however, seems to be his most commercial film to date which is also based on a manga,
therefore providing all the ingredients to reach out to a wide audience. A little bit unusual for Miike to say the least
and that's also why "Crows Zero" couldn't convince me as it lacks the genuiness typical for Miike's movies. Sure,
there are a lot of stylish and cool protagonists, every now and then there is a nice joke inserted, but all in all
there is nothing we haven't already seen in other high school flicks. That is because it's not really inventive to
portray school as one giant battlefield. There are many manga series that center around this subject and the numerous
brawls and the almost ridiculous violence Miike depicts in "Crows Zero" also don't elevate the movie's overall
quality above average.
Granted, there are some attempts to give the characters more background, especially concerning the guys around Genji, of course, of whom some have truely anime-like character traits, but they still remain fleshed out only on the surface. Furthermore, it's true that not just Genji and his comrades are drawn as sympathetic individuals, but also the story's "villian" Tamao, who is at times quite funny with his wacky nature, but these positive aspects soon fade away in front of the clichéd background of a school where teachers and tests are the smallest of the students' problems, but where gaining respect from others is crucial for survival, which is naturally earned through brute force. The numerous fights get repetitive and at some point only seem thrown into the movie out of lack of better ideas.
The film is based on the more serious manga series "Crows" by Takahashi Hiroshi and I have to admit that I didn't know it before. Therefore, I also couldn't get excited about the movie. Somewhere in this manga adaption there is some more serious and dramatic tone to be found, shedding some light on how lost the students actually feel and there will be without a doubt enough ways of interpreting wby they have to get into arguments and brawls all of the time, yet the drama gets only a raw deal, which prevents the story from having any real impact or even count as being interesting. Moreover, you often believe to have several episodes in front of you which have been compressed and put into a single movie. Naturally that doesn't work out as well as it may have been intended. In a TV-series Miike could have had more space to show the softer sides of the characters which is only hinted at, here. Also, the drama could have been conveyed easier with characters more fleshed out.
"Crows Zero" is still a stylish movie, but it lacks content. The school uniforms are just one example for the high value placed on stylish appearance. The school building with its several graffiti paintings as well as the other sets all look pretty well and give the film at times a serious and almost dark mood. Standing in strong contrast is the humor, of course, which is handled by the characters in a dead-pan way. At times the talking can be quite strong and crude, at others we are presented with human bowling pins that Tamao just kicks away with a giant ball in best manga manner when he has nothing else to do. No, you really shouldn't take this movie all too serious, Miike just wants to entertain. However, it remains questionable how well he actually achieves this, as I somehow couldn't warm up to the characters. Tamao and some of the side characters can be considered the most interesting, because Genji takes himself and everything else too serious for the viewer to be able to sympathize with him.
Takashi Miike peps his work with some cinematic tricks and special effects the kind of you would expect from a manga and the punk-rock soundtrack does its share to make the testosterone getting hammered through the viewer's veins. And that's just what "Crows Zero" is about: testosterone-loaden action, some cool posing between all the beating and after that the brawl continues. As already stated, the action scenes aren't that bad, you will feel physical pain just by watching, but at some point we have just seen enough of all this violence. A more quiet and meaningful movie would have been nice in which the students' problems had been processed more significantly and maybe also more serious at times. As it is Miike's work is just a loud, commercial film that is supposed to deliver some entertaining time in front of the TV with its coolness factor. It didn't work out for me, but I'm aware that I'm not of the same opinion as the majority, which is why it may be a good choice to read another review, too, in order to get your own picture.