The lurid Japanese underworld of tattooed gangsters is the setting of “Darc,” a culture-clash thriller of the “Black Rain” variety that could be a big — OK, modest — break for Tony Schiena of “Locked Down.”
He co-scripted and stars in this vengeance tale of a manga-loving/Kanji card-collecting Western boy raised in a Japanese brothel who saves his mother from a beating onto to bring down the Yakuza on them.
Years later, he gets out of prison, a pitiless bearded pistol-packing knife fighter granted “early release” thank to an Interpol operative (Armand Assante). Interpol wants something in return. We can guess what that is.
“You should do it for your mother...Justice.”
“Nobody…just WALKS into the Yakuza.”
Infiltrate, cozy up to boss Kageyama (Kippei Shîna). Take him down. Oh, and free Mr Interpol’s missing daughter.
Frequent flashbacks show us the ugly past Jake Walters — “People call me Darc.” — absorbed in Japan. But access can be attained, rescuing the punk son (Shô Ikushima) of the mob.
“What were you in for?”
Next thing you know, he’s murdering bikers on behalf of the West Coast branch of Tattoo U. He’s a gaijin hanging and brawling and accepting gift hookers (Lisa Ito) from the Japanese mob in the Asian strip-and-sex clubs — in Vancouver.
Darc renews his acquaintance with perhaps the most racist culture on Earth (Japan) as they collect protection money from assorted Vancouver Asian businesses.
“F—–g Chinese!” the kid says. Repeatedly.
Wait, this isn’t set in Japan? You can’t make a yakuza movie in Vancouver. Neon and sushi and Japanese men in suits and swords and tattoos — it’ll have to do.
Decent fight choreography and good editing making the savage brawls and death-dealing visceral enough to pay off. There’s enough polish here — majestic crane shots, austere boardrooms, vivid clubs and an ocean of blood — to suggest this world of money, blood, violence and family — infiltrated by a guy the yakuza wouldn’t let get in the door.
Insights? Well, it’s comforting to know that those elaborate yakuza tattoos don’t die with their owners. Seeing one skinned from a dead gangster is something the eyes cannot “un-see.”
Dawn Oliveri is Ivy, his fetching, increasingly neighbor with a thing for beardos.
Schiena is sort of a blander Gerard Butler, in terms of screen presence. He’s OK in the fights, nothing more.
I’d make an argument that Assante’s cool, simmering and forgotten old guy machismo is ripe for rediscovery by the likes of Tarantino or Scorsese. But that’s for another, better film.
Truthfully, this was never exciting or even interesting enough to make me forget its cut-rate setting.
You can’t make a good yakuza thriller in Vancouver.
MPAA Rating: R, graphic violence, explicit sex, profanity
Cast: Tony Schiena, Armand Assante, Kippei Shîna
Credits:Directed by Julius R. Nasso, script by Tony Schiena and Dennis Venter . A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:37