Shinjuku Incident/Gran Torino/Fast & Furious 4

I’ve never been a fan of Jackie Chan. His Dai-Gor (Big Brother) aura, his repeated attempts to portray himself as a good man, his failed attempts to emote (see New Police Story)- I just don’t like him period. It was therefore, with some trepidation that I bought tickets to Shinjuku Incident.

Jackie Chan is Steelhead, an illegal Chinese immigrant who swam his way onto Japanese shores in search of his childhood sweetheart Xiu Xiu (Xu Jing Lei). To his grave disappointment, Xiu Xiu had married a Japanese triad boss. With the help of his fellow comrades (Qian Jia Le, Daniel Wu etc), Steelhead stole, fought and killed to success.

Daniel Wu was no doubt the star.  As the timid Ah Jie whose biggest ambition was to own a pushcart business, Wu shone. His Ah-Jie was tortured, no, terrorized into violence, drugs and a swift downward spiral into moral degradation. It was an extremely moving and powerful performance.The rest of the cast did well, even Jackie. There was nary a dull moment and I liked how gritty and realistic the film was in portraying the plight of illegal immigrants.

Shinjuku was very violent and left me nauseous throughout the night. I can tolerate senseless bloodshed and gore, but deliberate torture, that just leaves a terrible aftertaste. What stopped the movie from being truly excellent was how SteelHead remained a hero to the very end. While all others turned corrupted, our Dai-Gor never strayed from the path of justice. I don’t like how he is right all the time- what happened to Ah Jie was to a certain extent his responsibility. Well,I guess that’s the price to pay for Jackie Chan:p

Over at Hollywood, Clint Eastwood plays an unlikely and reluctant hero, Walt Kowalski. A Korean War veteran, Kowalski is bitter, tough-as-nails, downright rude and racist. Due to a series of incidents, the bigot and lonely widower forged strong bonds with his Chinese neighbours, and in the process, learnt mercy, love and tolerance from the very people he despised.

His ultimate sacrifice was salvation for his beloved friends, condemnation of his closest kin who were eyeing his home and prized Gran Torino, and most significantly, redemption for his guilt-stricken soul. I didn’t expect to enjoy the film, but I walked out touched, saddened and inspired. Excellent acting, Clint Eastwood, a good plot, a strong social statement and an interesting twist at the end- I am satisfied=).

And while we are on the “hero” theme, Fast & Furious 4 features two, ahem, heroes in the form of the dishy Paul Walker and the very muscular Vin Diesel. One word- Skip. The film was that awful. No babes (one died 15 mins into the film, the other was a cameo at best, and to tell the truth, they weren’t that hot in the first place.  Gal Gadot, the Israeli beauty queen is jaw-droppingly beautiful, but she wasn’t even a love interest), no cars (way too few intelligent car sequences and loving close-ups of out-of-this-world cars) and a sorry attempt to develop plot. The last offence is the worst- i really hate it when a fluffy film refuses to respect fluff and insists on trying to be high-brow. What a waste of money!

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