Director: Derek Yee
Cast: Jackie Chan, Daniel Wu, Masaya Kato, Xu Jing Lei, Fan Bing Bing, Kenya Sawada, Chin Kar Lok, Jack Kao Jie, Yasuaki Kurata, Ringo Chan, Paul Chun Pui, Fung Hiu Si, Hayama Go, Lam Suet, Teddy Lin, Ken Lo, Ken Watanabe, Hiroyuki Nagato, Wai-Fai Wong
Running Time: 119 min.
By Jeff Bona
I can’t believe I waited this long to watch this movie…
An illegal Chinese immigrant named Steelhead (Jackie Chan) arrives in Tokyo where he seeks not only work, but also his long lost love (Xu Jinglei). He immediately teams up with a group of fellow Chinese immigrants (Daniel Wu, Lam Suet, Chin Kar Lok, Len Lo) and together, they take on odd jobs to survive.
Unsatisfied with the small earnings from their zero-level jobs, the street smart Steelhead and his countrymen decide to earn better income by stealing from merchants and rigging up pachinko machines (Japanese gaming device used for amusement and gambling). It’s during one of their con operations that Jie (Daniel Wu) is seriously beaten after getting caught by the business owner, who happens to be affiliated with the local yakuza.
Determined to avenge Jie, Steelhead confronts the gangsters. In the process he instinctively saves a Yakuza boss named Toshinari Eguchi (Masaya Kato) from being assassinated. Impressed with Steelhead’s determination and brave mentality, Toshinari decides to recruit him for a dangerous, but well-rewarding job.
In return, Toshinari not only helps Steelhead gain legal residency in Japan, but he also gives him his own territories to operate. In very little time, Steelhead gains benefits and power through Toshinari.
However, Steelhead starts to lose control as his softer side gets the best of him. While he looks to a more legitimate future, his countrymen – whom he shared his wealth with – are secretly gaining power themselves by dealing in drugs and other disgraceful activities.
From broke immigrant to rich gangster, Steelhead realizes that he has created an uncontrollable monster that he must stop…
Shinjuku Incident is a drama/crime movie, but by no means is it boring or slow. If you think The Protector (1985), Heart of the Dragon (1985) and Crime Story (1993) were a departure from the typical Jackie Chan movie, then Shinjuku Incident will surely catch you off guard. Unlike those three films, there’s not a single martial arts movement by Jackie Chan; come to think of it, his character doesn’t even know how to fight.
There was a time when Jackie wouldn’t touch a movie like this. He disowned The Protector (1985) for its gritty Dirty Harry-type violence and excessive female nudity. He turned down the role of a Yakuza gangster in Ridley Scott’s Black Rain (1989), fearing it would tarnish his clean-cut image. He openly criticized Kirk Wong for inserting a sleazy sex scene in Crime Story (1993).
In Shinjuku Incident, you get it all: bloody violence (some of the gore caught me off guard), sex scenes (Jackie’s first since All in the Family?) and although Jackie’s character isn’t exactly bad, he does do some awful things to get to the top.
In between the the Tuxedos and The Spy Next Doors, Shinjuku Incident proves that Jackie is open for edgier roles. Sure, it carries shades of Chinatown Kid (1977) and Scarface (1983), but let’s face it, every great gangster movie shares the story of a rags-to-riches, power hungry wise guy.
Other than a few far-fetched plot points, Shinjuku Incident is nearly flawless in its overall presentation. The entire supporting cast is excellent (especially Daniel Yu). I haven’t seen a Derek Yee directed-movie since People’s Hero (1987) and C’est la vie, mon chéri (1993) – both magnificent films – but now I’m curious to check out more of his recent work.
Shinjuku Incident is a must see.
Jeff Bona‘s Rating: 9/10