Friday, August 10, 2012

Shougo Recommends: The Legend of the Red Dragon (2006)

HJU member Forever Knight once talked about this movie and I myself only got around to checking it out recently. (Called The Legend of the Red Dragon in the US release, its original title was the lengthy "Lovers & Killers -- The Red Dragon Woman.") It's a run of the mill revenge B-Movie that won't win any awards, but I've seen crummier Japanese movies. The highlight of this movie for me is getting to see three toku guys in substantial roles outside of toku -- Kakuranger's Kenichi Endo, Kenji Ohba and suit actor (and Kenji Ohba pupil) Kenji Takechi, who's biggest toku face role was as the head gangster in Den-O's Climax Deka movie.

The plot involves a young woman named Yui (played by Yuu Misaki) who's out for revenge against the yakuza clan who slaughtered her family. Endo's character, Aramaki, is a high-ranking lieutenant of that clan, and the man responsible for the murders -- Yui's father was also a member of the clan, an honorable man who was rising in the ranks of the group, surpassing Endo's character. Endo -- one of my favorite actors -- plays the character with pain in his eyes, disappointed to always be denied by his yakuza family (despite his seniority, he currently answers to an idiot twenty-something, more interested in living the life of a bad hip-hop video), and having the knowledge that a brutal storm of revenge is headed his way. He's seen the damage its caused -- some of the mobsters even suspect the killer is supernatural -- and knows he's unlikely to survive it. Kenji Takechi plays Kunimoto, a young and naive member of the group, who falls for Yui, not knowing she's the one offing all of his gangster "family."

The action in the movie is a tad sloppy, except when it comes to -- not surprising -- anything involving Kenji Ohba, whose character Katagiri (a.k.a. the "Brown Dog," a legendary former hit-man) is the one who took in the orphaned Yui, raising and training her so she can take her revenge. If you were sad to see Ohba so ripped off in Kill Bill at the time, this makes up for it, where he's basically playing an extended version of Sonny Chiba's character from that. Typical for Ohba, he adds A LOT to the thin character, and a lot of surprising warmth to a movie of this type.

So, I'd recommend it basically for the cast. Like I said, I'm a fan of Endo's, and he's usually always given supporting roles, so it's great to see him in a main role, and interesting to see Ohba as a grayer character than we usually see him as.

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