In the early 1990s, a tractor mechanic from China nicknamed Steelhead (Jackie Chan) enters Japan illegally, in search of his girlfriend Xiu Xiu (Xu Jinglei). Steelhead and his friend, Jie (Daniel Wu) meet in the busy Shinjuku district of Tokyo and takes manual labour jobs to earn money. When Steelhead finds out that Xiu Xiu has married a Japanese Yakuza leader named Eguchi (Kato Masaya), he decides to remain in Japan. However, when Eguchi was targeted to be murdered and Steelhead saves his life, Eguchi formes an alliance with Steelhead to carry out revenge. Soon, Steelhead become embroiled so deeply in the ways of the Yakuza that there is no turning back.
Chan by all means is a legend in the Hong Kong film industry.
From his humble beginnings as a child actor in the Peking
opera troupe to stuntman to international superstar, his achievements
are unsurpassed. In recent years, the action star has expressed
interest in attempting more dramatic roles and when Derek
Yee approached him for Shinjuku Incident, he straight away
jump on the wagon without knowing the role he’s playing
or what the script is all about.
Yee on the other hand has its fair shots of hits and misses. The ex-Shaw Brothers actor turned director/producer have churned out critically-acclaimed hits like Viva Erotica, Protégé and occasional duds like The Truth About Jane and Sam and Drink Drank Drunk over the decades. While never as prolific as other filmmakers such as Johnnie To or Benny Chan, critics are quick to notice Yee’s productions and developments.
Touted as Chan’s first official foray into drama, Shinjuku Incidents tells the story of Steelhead (Jackie Chan), a labour worker from China who travels to Tokyo as an illegal immigrant to look for his long-lost fiancée Xiu Xiu (Xu Jing Lei). Together with his fellow countryman, Jie (Daniel Wu) and other Chinese comrades, Steelhead manages to earn a living doing lowly odd jobs until the Yakuza steps into their lives and changes everything.
While Yee’s script is applauded with his good intentions to highlight the plight of Chinese immigrants in a foreign country, his message is pathetically lost as the movie progresses. One can’t help but senses that Yee is rushing to tell too many stories within a span of two hours running time. There is the love angle which involves Steelhead with the Fan Bing Bing’s character. There is Xiu Xiu with her now married Yakuza husband and then there is the internal struggle within the Japanese triad. What’s more throw in the Taiwanese triad led by veteran actor Jack Kao and the list goes on and on.
Jackie and Daniel are given just enough screentime to flesh out their characters. Jackie for being the bad guy here is largely still the good guy. Sounds confusing? His 'tai gor' (big brother) persona shines through yet again in Shinjuku Incident. Even though Steelhead kills for money, the money in the end is passed on to his fellow comrades to set up legal businesses for their livelihood purposes. Daniel on the other hand who works with Yee on a pretty much frequent basis portrays the tragic Jie, a timid guy who suffers unbelievable consequences. A character I’m sure will left you with deep impression even if you don’t recall Chan’s Steelhead.
The good thing about Yee is he makes no attempt in concealing on-screen violence and a few sequences will make the weak-heartened squirm in disgust. The on-location shoot which took place in Japan added a sense of realism not seen in Hong Kong productions in recent years.
Sadly, despite an impressive supporting cast including Naoto Takenaka, Masaya Kato, Lam Suet, Hiroyuki Nagato, Paul Chun and Chin Ka-Lok (who doubles as action choreographer), Shinjuku Incident fails to convey the social stigma of the foreigners and also the inner emotions of the protagonists unlike Yee’s teary drama, Endless Love or his dark crime drama, Protégé where the various characters are effortlessly written. The rush haphazard ending doesn’t help either to wrap up the loose strings.
This may not rank as a classic Derek Yee movie but the fine performances and production values and Chan’s first attempt at a serious role deserved more than a peek. Chan has expressed certain regrets at the final cut of the movie citing because of pacing reasons, most of Steelhead’s dramatic moments are left on the cutting floor. I alone can’t wait to see the entire Yee’s vision as this uncut DVD only contains seconds of violence which were excised in the theater cut.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
The teaser for The Storm Warriors starts Disc One which contains the feature film, two trailers (one with English voiceover) and Cast Interviews (no subtitles) which runs a staggering 1 hr 43 mins.
The Making of lasts 13 minutes and contains again cast and crew interviews sadly without any option for subtitles so if you are not familiar with Cantonese or Japanese, you just got to make do with the visual.
Behind-the-Scenes is a long, informative feature which covers aspects such as the pre-production process, shooting process, stunts, director profile and fans waiting to catch a glimpse of Jackie etc. Yet again, this does not contain any subtitles and narration or voiceover and ends abruptly at the 1 hr 44 mins mark.
This Code 3 DVD is round up by TV spots and a photo gallery on Disc 2.
Shinjuku Incident is presented in its original Mandarin, Japanese and Cantonese version. This is more of a dialogue-laden movie which doesn’t really allow the fine Dolby Digital soundtrack to shine with the exception of the final sequence. Detail is excellent, colours are deep and solid though the night scenes looks slightly murky for the DVD transfer.
by Linus Tee
Posted on 13 August 2009