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Detonation: 750cc zoku

July 22, 2010

Detonation: 750cc zoku (Japan, 1976)

Lacking an official English title, 750cc zoku brings the Detonation series to a conclusion with mixed results. Teruo Ishii, the director of the first three films, has finally been released from the motorcycle chains, with Yutaka Kohira taking over the directing responsibilities. Kohira, while not a widely known director, is a man of relative importance in the cult film circuits. Having gained his experience as the assistant director for such greats as Kinji Fukasaku and Shunya Ito, Kohira later went to direct one of the best grind house karate affairs of the 70s: Dragon Princess (1976).

The strengths and weaknesses of 750cc zoku are clear from the opening scene. Kohira doesn’t challenge Ishii’s mad imagination, but as an action film director he is a step ahead. Kicking off with a motorcycle chase Kohira sets the level high right from the beginning, although the opening credits sequence that follows is puzzling in its lack of music and punchy execution. After the arrest of the hotheaded and law defying protagonist Koji (Kouichi Iwaki) the film leaps ahead one year in time. Koji now works in a car repair shop, trying to lay low and keep his dumb friends out of trouble. A crash course with a local car gang seems unavoidable, however.

Similarly to Season of Violence, 750cc zoku doesn’t line up well with the other Detonation films. Rather than quality the problem is simply that 750cc zoku isn’t much of a motorcycle gang film. Introduction aside the protagonist is never belongs to a gang, and his primary vehicle is a car, rather than motorcycle. The film’s final third does make a comeback to two wheel action, though, with a few motorcycle riding group souls as a bonus. Calling these T-shirt wearing fellas hard edged gang members would be a joke, though (although it must be noted that reality is often lamer than fiction, and so were bousou zoku; T-shirts and yukata type clothing were not rare).

In terms of storyline 750cc zoku is messy and uninteresting. The plot is there to move characters – which don’t give much reason to cheer, either – from point A to point B, or the other way round. The film’s first 30 minutes nevertheless ride fluently thanks to quality car action. Iwaki’s charisma and dark sunglasses help also, even though they can’t quite carry over some of the weaker parts. Humor works occasionally and there’s a couple of catchy songs on the soundtrack. Ishii level of funky soundtrack is not to be found here, though.

Dangerously falling towards mediocre, the film pulls out a surprise ace from its back pocket during the last half an hour. Placing Koji back on the iron saddle, the film concludes with a 20 minute non-stop motorcycle chase. Starting out easy and careful but raising the bar minute by minute, the finale finally turns into a series of breathtaking motorcycle stunts. The cheer energy of this action scene is not even hurt by a discreet use of fast motion in some shots, or plus a heartwarmingly ridiculous trick shot of a police car “floating” between buildings (the same technique was used in almost all of the Detonation films, and for some reason, to increasingly poor results).

A prime example of the importance of satisfying ending, 750cc zoku shows how film can redeem itself at the end, even if the road may have been slightly bumpy. A good way to end the Detonation saga, even if the series wasn’t really returned to its original tracks other than in terms of quality.

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