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Kaiji 2: The Ultimate Gambler - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Kaiji 2: Jinsei dakkai gmu

Japan 2011

Genre:
Thriller, Action, Drama

Director:
Tya Sat

Cast:
Tatsuya Fujiwara
Teruyuki Kagawa
Yuriko Yoshitaka
Ysuke Iseya
Katsuhisa Namase
Suzuki Matsuo
Hayato Kakizawa
Ken Mitsuishi
Kyusaku Shimada



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Kaiji 2: The Ultimate Gambler

aka Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji 2

Story: Kaiji Ito (Tatsuya Fujiwara) has drowned in debt and in life-threatening gambling games managed to free himself of this predicament only to end up right at the bottom once again. He is working off his debt as a slave, but with the help of his friends he buys himself two weeks in freedom. Kaiji now looks for a way to make the most of his money and that of his friends, who still have to work underground, so that he can buy himself and his friends free. His old acquaintance and rival Tonegawa (Teruyuki Kagawa), who fell from grace with his boss, introduces him to a secret casino in which a giant pachinko machine promises wealth in the blink of an eye. However, casino boss Seiya Ichijo (Yusuke Iseya) doesn't leave winning or losing to chance. With the helping hand of a new friend Kaiji makes at that place, Sakazaki (Katsuhisa Namase), and Yumi Ishida (Yuriko Yoshitaka) whose father he promised to look after her and who is working at the casino, he slowly comes up with a strategy how they can hit the jackpot of several millions despite all the obstacles...

Review: The sequel to the live-action movie of the manga and anime remains true to its source and once again proves to be an extremely entertaining thriller. Thanks to a good amount of wit and drama the viewer is pushed to the edge of his seat and this even though "Kaiji 2" isn't perfect. Nonetheless, it's really easy to dive into the world of this thriller and so we get one of the most entertaining movies out of Japan in the last few years. Most likely the movie will only be half as good when watching it a second time, because most of the tension is created through the unpredictable outcome of the games, but this is of no concern at this point. Fortunately, fans of the series can watch the thriller as well since we know since part one that departures from the original story are in the realm of possibilities.

"Kaiji 2" doesn't try out anything new but instead makes use of the second story arc of the manga. It is pretty obvious that the series itself has more time to deal with the drama of the characters and the individual gambling strategies, but the live-action adaption manages in an applaudable way to bring to screen the most important aspects in a compressed manner. Those who haven't seen the first part may have some difficulties following the plot, though, since things aren't rehashed for us in some flashbacks. That's in fact pretty refreshing as the movie doesn't waste any time this way and avoids typical lengthy scenes. After only 20 minutes you will be completely captured by the film and cheer for Kaiji, a loser within society who wants to fight his way back up.

The hero of the story surely has a problem with gambling, but he has also reached a point in life at which he can't get rid of his mountain of debt through normal labor. Therefore, he is forced to risk it all once again. He may give a pathetic impression, as well as many other losers, when he begs for just another chance during a game, but he still has enough brains and wit to become a serious danger to the best of their profession. What makes him work out as a sympathetic character is his humanity which he manages to preserve despite all of his past bad experiences. You only get somewhere in life when you use others as a spring board, meaning that you only can hit it big in life on the expense of others. However, Kaiji isn't willing to life according to the motto of this cruel society.

Naturally that leads to Kaiji often being made use of and betrayed, but eventually his naivity and good-naturedness soften up just the right individuals who can help him become victorious on his way. In the end this might block Kaiji's road to true wealth, but you only need to look at his rivals to be able to easily answer what's more important: money or friendship.
One of Kaiji's former opponents, Tonegawa, is now fighting alongside him but of course there is still something inscrutable about him so that we never know whether he will betray Kaiji or not after all. It's the same with Yumi, being a variable that can't be assessed and therefore adds to the thrill factor of the movie.

It's amazing how often the characters are merely staring at a pachinko machine being keyed up while you yourself are almost forgetting to breathe, even though at a closer look there isn't actually happening that much. But the waiting, being enriched by many monologues and explanations about the possible outcomes of the game and the used strategies, creates a tremendous tension, which also gets some depth and color thanks to the implemented background stories of the characters. Thus, the movie's 135 minutes pass by like an arrow. A nice soundtrack and the usual good directing (as with the first part Tya Sat sits once again in the director's chair) make the movie succeed on a technical level as well. As its predecessor did "Kaiji 2" stands out with a special kind of magic as well which will instantly captivate even those who have only little interest in gambling. An absolutely worthy sequel.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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