Review: Crows Zero (2007)

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Another round of violence has broken out at Suzuran Boys’ High School in Japan. The school has now been turned into a battlefield, and for its students, their peer groups have become armies and classmates are now comrades.‘ No, this is not the latest news headlines on Heroic News. It is actually the setting for Takashi Miike’s hit movie Crows Zero, also known as Crows: Episode 0.

Crows Zero tells the story of the students at Suzuran Boys’ High, nicknamed the ‘school of crows’, which is the roughest school in the nation. When Genji Takiya joins the school, he is determined to fight to the top to conquer and rule all of Suzuran, something that has never been done before. To achieve this, he must defeat the current ‘king’ of the school, Tamao Serizawa, and his gang of top fighters. But Genji soon discovers that there are many more tough opponents to be taken of before he could take on Serizawa…

If you are thinking what a dangerous place this school is, you are exactly right. The world portrayed is lawless. Teachers are nowhere to be found when the students are seriously beating each other up. The police do not seem to pay much attention to the school either. Viewers will learn very quickly to accept the fact that this is an imaginary place, and that what happens in the movie is not to be taken too seriously.

The film oozes youthful energy, helped by a cool soundtrack and a young cast. The rock soundtrack is absolutely fantastic. It is energetic, and fits the tone of the movie perfectly. The cast consists of predominantly young actors. Takayuki Yamada and Shun Oguri, who played the two leading characters of Tamao Serizawa and Genji Takaya respectively, both did decent jobs of playing the roles. Their fight scenes are not too bad either. But the stand out performance came from Kyosuke Yabe, who played Ken Katagiri, the low-ranking Yakuza member who befriends Genji. Yabe’s performance has helped to draw a lot of sympathy for the character who shows a great deal of loyalty towards his friend. Actress Kuroki Meisa has been given a small but very eye-catching role, being one of the very few girls in the movie. Of course, her good looks also help to draw the audience’s attention.

I think this movie would appeal a lot more to boys than girls. The action is non-stop, and there are fights with bare fists and kicks scattered throughout the film. By the time you get to the climax, which is one extended and rather spectacular fight scene, you may already be feeling exhausted. My main criticism, however, is that the film editing is too fast in some major scenes where pretty much every character is dressed in black. The result is that sometimes one just sees a lot of punching and kicking happening but has no idea who is fighting with who and who is winning.

Upon its release in Japanese cinemas, Crows Zero became the biggest box office hit for prolific director Takashi Miike, and it is not hard to see why it achieved such commercial success. The film is enormously entertaining and simply a lot of fun to watch. While it may not quite match the brilliance or creativeness of Miike’s very best works, it is still one hell of a thrill ride.

8 tough fighters riding on motorbikes out of 10.
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