Detonation: Violent Games

July 4, 2010

Bakuhatsu! Boso yugi (1976)

Plugging William Shakespeare into the credits of a Teruo Ishii directed motorcycle gang film is not an easy task to achieve. Violent Games, the second film in the Detonation series, manages this through a donkey bridge. A small cinema cultural achievement by itself, Violent Games takes its inspiration from the 1961 musical classic West Side Story, which was a modernization of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. In Violent Games Ishii has borrowed the story structure – and dancing gangsters – of West Side Story to be used as the spice of his own violent gang saga. The director’s official explanation was that he thought it would make the film more entertaining.

Ishii was right. Violent Games is superior to its predecessor Violent Riders, and it’s all thanks to the shameless West Side Story plagiarism. Finger snapping gang members – even throwing a dance move or two at times – are an inspiring sight to the extent to make one wish Ishii had made a full on transformation to music genre. This is not the case, though. Storywise Violent Games is unsurprising – what can you do everyone knows the tale from before – but the mixture is obscure enough to keep audience steadily entertained till the climax. Furthermore, this time at least the storyline holds – this was not the case with the messily put together Violent Riders.

More regrettable is that Ishii’s was also right about the beneficiality of the West Side Story roots; Violent Games needs them. For those already familiar with the opening installment this sequel has little new to offer on other areas. In terms of capturing the thrills of speed and tuned motor vehicles Violent Games even falls slightly behind its predecessor. The exploitation elements, while firmly included, do also not rant especially high on Ishii’s own, admittedly twisted scale. The film’s finale is, however, a notable improvement over the messy gang fight of the previous film. This time the chaos follows firm trails, and even comes with some pleasingly violent ran-over-by-a-motorcycle deaths.

Finding no replacement for Violent Riders’ guest star Sonny Chiba, the sequel does handle the casting relatively well otherwise. The series star Kouichi Iwaki portrays Black Panthers gang boss, but this character is pushed to a supporting seat in a storyline that concentrates on the character’s little sister Yuki and her romance with race driver Masaki, who of course comes from the influence of a rivalry gang. There is little sympathy found for the forbidden love, aside from Yuki’s female friends at work. All the central female characters in the film are food girls, despite being portrayed by actors such as Yumi Takigawa (the star of Norifumi Suzuki’s nunsploitation classic School of the Holy Beast), Nikkatsu’s soft core queen Meika Seri, and Yutaka Nakajima – the only one with relatively clean record of the three.

Falling in the middle of a gang war, the race driver Masaki is played by real life racing professional Masami Kuwashima. In the film his character is introduced as the champion of Silverstone. In real life Kuwashima career “highpoint” was sitting behind the wheel of a Formula 1 race car. This happened only once, though, in the Japan F1 race that took place after Violent Games had been filmed. Kuwashima’s performance the pre-race practice session was, however, so poor that the team manager Frank Williams fired him before the actual race. In Violent Games Kuwashima is more successful although he didn’t return to silver screen again but spent the rest of his career in Japan’s own Formula series.

Steadily entertaining throughout its 85 minute run, Violent Games enjoys moderate and mostly deserved fame in fan circuits. Originally rising to international popularity through the bootleg tapes of Video Search of Miami, the film has potential for far wider distribution that it has enjoyed so far. With slight reservations towards the film’s exploitation content, Violent Games is a film difficult not to like. Director Ishii may have directed more hard boiled classics, but the dancing bikers of Violent Games have certainly earned their reputation.

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