Japan, 2009: Crows Zero 2
Crows Zero 2
Genre: Action, Gangster, High School
At the brink of fully conquering Suzuran All Boys High School, Genji accidently breaches a non-aggression pact with the rival Hosen Academy, leading to all-out war.
Picking up right where the first film left off, director Takashi Miike raises the stakes in every conceivable way for the further adventures at the school of crows. With a full returning cast and some new faces, Crows Zero 2 does everything a sequel is supposed to and then some. Old character relationships are explored deeper and re-evaluated in the light of the new characters and dynamics. Shun Oguri’s Genji is an uncomfortable leader, and it shows through the strain it puts on him and his lieutenants. Takayuki Yamada’s Serizawa makes for a good rival, although I wish that they’d spent a bit more time with him. The same could be said for many of the Suzuran students, who are generally relegated to one-note character roles. The villains at the Hosen Academy have some surprising depth, a major plus for a movie that glorifies comic book violence. The themes of brotherhood and duty are just as apparent as Miike’s other films, and there’s definitely more than a few bro moments. The script is pretty sharp and, while the story is a little loose, it all comes together in the end.
Miike’s eye as a director comes through once again here, with wonderful camera work and photography. A huge step up from its predecessor, Miike manages to create order out of chaos, due in part to the stark contrast in costumes between the rival schools and a distinctive sense of environment. There are a few spots of special effects for humor or scope, and like his other films, it’s not particularly top notch work. It’s not so bad or noticeable that it takes you out of the movie, but it is there. Japanese punk band The Street Beats returns to add a fun soundtrack, one fitting to the Yanki culture and aesthetic of the Crows universe. The rest of the score is pretty forgettable, but it keeps the action moving and sets a strong tone for the whole film.
The fights feel leaps and bounds ahead of the first movie. Close enough to stay in the middle of the action, yet cutting back far enough to get a clear view of the choreography, there’s a good balance between frenzy and flash in every scene. The fights are rough and ugly, yet there’s a strong sense of individuality between characters. There isn’t a need to fall back on a generic street fighting style, even if everyone is indeed a street fighter. Miike rises above and beyond the call of duty with Crows Zero 2, taking what could have been just another action sequel and turning it into a phenomenally fun, inspiring, and altogether impressive piece of film.
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