Neuchâtel 2022 Review: BAD CITY, Come for the Gangsters, Stay for the Fights
Ozawa Hitoshi stars in a Yakuka thriller, directed by Sonomura Kensuke.
"Don't shoot them. We don't have enough bullets."
The film enjoys its world premiere at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival today at 16:15. It will screen again on Friday evening at 22:00.
The opening sequence introduces the menacing threat and the lethal actions taken by a naked Yakuza in a steam bath, recognizable by his tattoo-covered body.
He is symptomatic of the daunting challenge faced by the police force in a Japanese city. Justice-minded veteran inspectors like Torada (Ozawa Hitoshi) don't stand a chance against the entrenched criminal activity of the city's two biggest gangs, especially the one that has established deep ties to the political officeholders and has arranged for him to be falsely charged and sentenced to prison.
Torada languishes in prison until an intrepid new Chief Inspector creates an undercover unit, with the goal of finally busting Gojo, leader of one of the gangs, who has announced his intention to retire from his legal business, which is simply a shell to cover his criminal activities anyway, so that he can become mayor and push through a redevelopment that will bring in casinos and, presumably, increased power over a very bad city. One of the gangs also has ties to the Korean mafia, who are operating in the city with their cooperation, but something may be rotten in their gang too.
The undercover unit consists of three detectives in the Violent Crimes division, veteran leader Kuma, his partner, and "a newbie," who doesn't know anything about anybody, which allows for her unit-mates to fill her (and the audience) in on who the main players are and how they relate to everybody else.
Directed by veteran stunt performer, stunt coordinator and action director Sonomura Kensuke (Hydra), the film's procedural narrative is perfectly fine and sustains dramatic interest, but it's the fight sequences that lift it far above average. Timed so that you don't have to wait too long for a new fight to break out every so often, they're also tied to the narrative twists, and help to emphasize the overwhelming odds faced by the beleaguered undercover squad. The sequences are choreographed to showcase big splashes of blood and/or bountiful brutality.
By the time Ozawa and his squad finally receive reinforcements, so that they number perhaps a dozen, they are outnumbered in a final battle that involves many dozens more gangsters who are armed with deadly intent and many sharp instruments. Of course, when I say "final battle," that's only the beginning of the finale, which gets much more personal for the officers involved, and much more fierce.
Numerous bodies fall, many bones are broken, and much blood is spilled before the credits roll, yet Bad City still manages to tie up all its loose plot threads and conclude on a smashing note that feels entirely fitting. I wouldn't want to live in Bad City but it's a great place to visit.