Nihon kuroshakai / Ley Lines (1999) - Caught between divergent attitudes and emotions - 6/10 (29/04/17)
Ley Lines is the third and last instalment in Takashi Miike's Black Society Trilogy that focuses on foreign gangsters with inner struggles trying to find a purpose in life. Ley Lines both shares similarities and differences with Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog. Despite overall positive critics, I think this movie is the weakest part of the trilogy even though it's still slightly above average.
Just as the first film, Ley Lines focuses on Chinese-born Japanese that have to face a lot of prejudice and racism which is made clear right from the start in a beautiful and surreal opening sequence. Just like in the second movie, the main characters team up with a prostitute that is also looking for a purpose in life. The main characters clash with local gangsters that also have a foreign background which is also typical for the trilogy.
On the other side, Ley Lines focuses on three characters instead of a lone wolf. It tells the story of two brothers and their school friend who leave the countryside on a train and hope to become rich, famous and accepted in Tokyo. Upon arriving, they get tricked and robbed by a prostitute but she gets beaten up by her pimp and crosses the path with the trio again and decides to accompany and help them this time. The trio first sells petroleum-based inhalant toulene for a weird local low-level criminal. When they realize that they are still living like outcasts, they plan on moving illegally to Brazil on a cargo ship. In order to finance such a resettlement, they rob a local gangster clan that chases them down until the final showdown at the port.
Ley Lines has a few brutal and explicit scenes like the other two movies, for example when the prostitute gets beaten up by her pimp and when she has to serve two weird clients which are events that convince her to change her profession, life and identity. On the other side, the film has some situation comedy as well. The brothers' friend is weird, overenthusiastic and eccentric which adds a lot of humour and pace to the film but also feels somewhat exaggerated and redundant at times. The prostitute is also quite quirky and has sexual intercourse with all members of the trio to cheer them up which is portrayed in a surprisingly neutral way as this doesn't provoke any conflicts between the four characters.
The film is overall less brutal and intense than the first movie and less melancholic and solitary than the second instalment. It's somewhere in between those two films and feels directionless at times when weird situation comedy and uplifting moments are followed by rather depressing or boring sequences. Despite a few solid ideas like showing the constant shift of ups and downs in the lives of the three outsiders, Ley Lines is somehow missing its own distinctive identity and has a few minor lengths.
In conclusion, Ley Lines is still a slightly above average movie and if you have watched Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog, you won't regret watching this third and last part of the Black Society Trilogy either. If you haven't watched the other two films, there are numerous other Japanese gangster movies of much better quality you should watch first. Let me suggest you Another Lonely Hit-man, Gozu and Outrage.« Gokudô kuroshakai / Rainy Dog (1997) - Unique lethargic melancholy set in a rainy Taiwan - 7/10 (29/04/17)Mo Gong Mei Ying / Phantom of the Theatre (2016) - Darkly romantic drama that unfolds its true magic after a weaker opening third - 8/10 (08/05/17) »
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