In Mandarin and Japanese
Director: Derek Yee
Cast: Jackie Chan, Naoto Takenaka, Daniel Wu,
Xu Jinglei, Masaya Kato, Fan Bingbing, Toro Minegishi, Lam Suet,
Hiroyuki Nagato, Jack Kao, Paul Chun, Yasuaki Kurata, Chin Ka-Lok
RunTime: 2 hrs
Released By: GV and Scorpio East
Rating: NC-16 (Violence)
Official Website: http://shinjukuincident.emp.hk/en_main.html
Opening Day: 2 April 2009
Our Interview with Jackie Chan | Our Interview with Daniel Wu
The Chinese migrant communities in Tokyo live shadowy lives.
The Japanese neither acknowledge nor welcome them. They are
shunned by the mainstream society, hounded by the yakuza,
and go about their days under fear of being discovered and
is an alien world for Steelhead, an honest, hardworking tractor
repairman from Heilongjian in northern China. Steelhead had
decided to take the perilous journey to Tokyo after he lost
contact with his girlfriend, who had arrived in the city earlier.
to exist in the underbelly of Tokyo long enough to find Xiu
Xiu, Steelhead has come to realize the migrants had to stand
united if they wanted to go about their lives without fear
of oppression by not only the Japanese underworld but also
his search of a decent living, Steelhead unwittingly finds
himself pit against the Japanese yakuza. Ironically he also
discovers that Xiu Xiu has adopted a Japanese identity and
married Eguchi, an ambitious up and coming yakuza chief.
wins the respect of his friends by establishing a base for
them and forms an uneasy alliance with Eguchi. When he helps
Eguchi dispose of a rival, he is given the control of Shinjuku’s
night establishments. But, uninterested in living a gangster’s
life, Steelhead finds a new love and takes the chance to start
a tractor repair business outside Tokyo. However, his peace
is shortlived when word gets to him that his former compatriots
were now being used by Eguchi to front the yakuza’s
feels responsible for this turn of events and feels obligated
to bring Eguchi down. He also has to bear in mind that if
he goes after Eguchi, he would be destroying the newfound
life of the woman he once loved. In any case, can one simple
Chinese migrant take on the yakuza alone?
Chan has picked a damn fine director for his much touted first
foray into serious acting. Throughout this taut gangland thriller,
one can sense the assured, confident hand of acclaimed director
Derek Yee. And that has made all the difference- because Yee
has guided Jackie Chan into what is easily one of the most
understated but no less gripping performances of his career.
the Jackie Chan in Shinjuku Incident is quite unlike what
audiences have come to expect of him from his movies. Here
he plays a lowly illegal Chinese migrant Steelhead in Japan
who gets by sorting garbage at the dumps or cleaning waste
in the sewage. But eventually, his character gets mixed up
with a life of organized crime- maiming his enemies, shooting
a ‘yakuza’ boss point blank and strangling another
to Derek Yee, you’ll get to see all those scenes in
their gory glory- and let me warn you, it does get pretty
graphic. Just as he showed in his most recent underworld-themed
dramas One Night in Mongkok and Protégé, Shinjuku
Incident is proof that Yee is not one director who shies away
from blood and violence in order to sanitise his movies.
Derek Yee’s brilliance lies not simply in his audacity,
but in his astute observations of socio-political reality.
If One Night in Mongkok was a realistic portrayal of the Hong
Kong triads, and Protégé a reflection of the
drug business and its ramifications, then Shinjuku Incident
is a depiction of the plight of the many Chinese migrants
who left their homelands for Japan in search of a better future
but were instead faced with hardships and discrimination.
Yee’s years of research into the subject has provided
him with much inspiration to craft a realistically detailed
exploration of the lives of these migrants during the ’90s.
He injects much empathy into the many characters in this movie,
letting his audience experience the loneliness, alienation
and rejection that these people faced in an unfamiliar environment.
Although clearly sentimental towards the subject, Yee artfully
never lets the movie turn maudlin at any point.
shrewdly, Yee, who also wrote the movie, never makes Steelhead
the outright hero. Instead, this is a flawed hero, one that
has noble intentions of trying to help himself and his fellow
migrants live a better life but ultimately fails to calculate
the possible consequences of his dubious means. Such is the
nature of ordinary heroes, and Jackie Chan portrays his character
well in an appropriately low-key fashion.
to the spirit of Steelhead then, Jackie Chan doesn’t
fight at all in Shinjuku Incident. Sure he gets into fights,
but there’s none of the stunts we’re used to seeing
him in. Instead, he eschews the comfortable conventions of
Jackie Chan the action star to focus on conveying his character’s
isolation and subsequent indignation. To be sure, this is
no less than a groundbreaking performance for Jackie Chan
for he proves he can actually act without action.
supporting cast also give sterling performances. Especially,
Daniel Wu is quite the scene-stealer as Steelhead’s
close friend, Jie, who does a radical transformation after
a particularly traumatic incident. Lately, Daniel Wu has been
drawn to playing conflicted characters and his convincing
performance here is testament to how much he has matured as
an actor. Just as outstanding in this movie is Japanese actor
Naoto Takenaka, whose role as a cop sympathetic to Steelhead’s
predicament is simply riveting to watch.
course, Shinjuku Incident is about Jackie Chan and this is
certainly a notable beginning for the veteran action star’s
venture into more dramatic territory. But let’s also
not forget why this movie really works- Derek Yee. Once again,
the acclaimed director makes another fine entry into his repertoire
by taking a most interesting subject matter and distilling
it into a thought-provoking movie that is equal parts action
and drama and just as riveting either way.
(So what if Jackie Chan doesn’t fight? Taut,
tense and gripping- his latest is still one riveting watch)
Review by Gabriel Chong