Movie Review: “Tokyo Tribe”

tok1tribe2On Tokyo’s “Streets of Fire,” competing gangs brawl, sword-fight and shoot it out as they narrate their own stories and proclaim their own fame, through rap.

“Tokyo Tribe” is a hip hop “West Side Story,” set in a “Blade Runner” world. It’s a gang war alternate universe, anime come to lurid life — with nubile, naked (or at least scantily clad) young women fighting with and fought over by hotheaded young men and their DJs, at least one of whom is old enough to be somebody’s great grandma.

No, this isn’t the real Tokyo. But knowing about Japan’s economic, cultural and birth-rate declines, the parallels are intriguing. It’s not all due to earthquakes, meltdowns and eating mercury-tainted whale and dolphin meat. They’re absorbed gangsta rap and taken its settings, violence, fashion, and sexist ethos and Japanized it.

That’s something to see, man.

Efforts to explain exactly what is happening and why, with inter-titles and rap songs, fail and flail as the movie piles on the characters, scenes and confrontations. A hoodie-wearing Japanese Greek chorus character named Sho ( Shota Sometani) tries to walk us through it, but fails.The defiant hooker-who-fights (Tomoko Karina) defends her person, if not her lost honor.

The long, long set-up, with scenes that offer visual nods to “A Clockwork Orange” and the like, doesn’t help. They have to justify these over-dressed sets, the teaming masses of teen-ish extras. They have to acknowledge and catch up with the various bosses of Bukaru, Shinjuko, Shibuya and the many other gangs.

It’s a garish mess, more interesting as a concept and production design exercise than as a movie. But you’ve never seen anything quite like it.

MPAA Rating: unrated, with violence, nudity, subtitled profanity

Cast: Shota Sometani, Tomoko Karina and many, many others.

Credits: Directed by Shion Sono, script by Santa Inoue and  Shion Sono.  An XLrator Media release.

Running time: 1:56

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