Review: Survive Style 5+ (2004)

Survive Style 5+ is one crazy movie. Containing some of the strangest ideas ever put on film, it really offers quite a wild ride. How much you enjoy the ride though will depend on whether you can accept the many bizarre plots, wacky characters and at times a lack of logic. Yes, it is very weird, but if you are prepared to put to sleep those parts of your brains responsible for logical thinking, you will be in for one unforgettable movie-viewing experience.

The film consists of five short stories. A man is burying his wife, but wait, she is alive! A television commercial creator thinks up some wicked ideas for her commercials; a family get the chance to see a hypnosis show; while two small-time crooks develop a close bond. In the mean time, on the way to Japan to offer his service is a British hitman (played by Vinnie Jones), and his first target is going to be…

Director Gen Sekiguchi really pushes boundaries and challenges conventions in this film. He shows remarkable talent in imaginative visual story telling. While the film may be flawed, it is obviously the work of a very clever filmmaker. It’s both interesting and sad that Sekiguchi has not directed anything since Survive Style 5+, which was released back in 2004.

The film has a very strong ensemble cast, and I can just imagine them all having a great deal of fun shooting the movie and doing the unusual things that the director asked them to do. The lead actor is Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer, Zatoichi, Mongol, Villon’s Wife), whose story of a man desperately trying to get rid of his wife is given a lot of screen time and obviously a large proportion of the budget. Particularly impressive is the design of the house where most of this story takes place, which uses a huge variety of different colours, something much more commonly seen in animated features. My favourite performance, however, belongs to Ittoku Kishibe. What happens to his character in the film is quite unbelievable, but his funny yet sensitive performance really gives the hypnosis storyline a lot of credibility.

The first half of the movie is simply amazing. The different characters of the five stories get introduced and each story is entertaining enough on its own. The real fun begins, however, when the five segments begin to intertwine and the key characters start meeting each other. There are flashes of genius throughout the film, but these are much more concentrated in the first half of the picture. The wild ideas do eventually become repetitive and a bit tiresome towards the end of the film.

Because of its flaws, Survive Style 5+ does not quite become the insane masterpiece that it could have been, but it is nevertheless a really fun film to watch. The director and cast deserve a lot of praise for creating such a uniquely strange, funny and entertaining movie. I’ll finish up now to give myself more time to think about the hitman’s question: ‘What’s your function in life?’

7 commercials thought up by Yoko out of 10.
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