Judge Patrick Rogers isn't always so cynical and jaded.
"Breaking rules. Breaking faces."
I went in not expecting much, especially after all the crappy trailers that preceded the whole affair. But I came away kind of loving it.
Facts of the Case
Hiroshi (Hiroki Narimiya, Azumi) drops out of private school to become a delinquent like all his favorite manga characters because, as he says, private school is too uptight and everyone knows that delinquents go to public school. After getting his ass beaten by the school's head honcho Tatsuya (Hiro Mizushima Beck), Hiroshi becomes part of the gang. Constantly having to prove themselves to rival gangs, especially to an ever looming motorcycle gang, Hiroshi and his gang of misfits must balance the feeling of being alive through fighting with the reality of growing up.
Drop plays like a violent masturbatory fantasy of a teenager who was never weaned off comic books, caffeinated soda, and Van Damme movies. Yet that's the entire point. At times, the film is like a tongue-in-cheek indictment of a vapid youth movement going through arrested development. This is only heightened by the fact that these characters are mostly caricatures whose lives have no meaning past fighting, stealing and cussing. And yet the film also has a heart to it. While some may take it as a sensationalized look at youth culture, it also heralds a certain philosophy of "boys will be boys" and that we only have one childhood to spend so why not live it with vibrancy? There's a sense of bonding happening between these kids. Just because it's a bond borne from violence doesn't negate the fact that it's meaningful and cathartic to feel a connection to another human being through similar fascinations. Those who take this film or the violence too seriously have missed the point of the film entirely.
The fight scenes are incredibly well staged and photographed. The director adopts a fluid, long take style to capture the hard hitting and realistic (to a degree) nature of these brawls. The cutting in action scenes is some of the most seamless I have seen in a long time. Fists look like they're actually pummeling eye sockets and the bats seem as though they're really cracking some spines. Never does a punch feel like it's being pulled and never does an edit look as though it's trying to hide something. Instead the editing helps to heighten the sensation of violence and struggle.
The most striking parts of the film though are how self-reflexive it can be and how it juxtaposes reality against comic book fantasy. It makes a point to show the audience that it's based off of a popular manga series. This is achieved through the juxtaposition of hand drawn stills from the manga against the real life actors for the first bit of the film. But where it gets really interesting is with the hero character of Hiroshi who spits out references to Japanese anime and television dramas to make his points. Like when he says, "People with villainous face like you guys shouldn't say cool things like a story's main character." Hiroshi's friend Tatsuya reminds everyone that people don't die from a baseball bat to the head (a clever wink to the audience about comic book hyper violence) and says that, "We can hit them so they don't die," right before ramming into someone at full bore with a car. It's a wickedly clever device to play on our expectations and to create a certain type of meta-narrative.
2#This truly is one of the funniest films I have seen in a very long time. Unlike many Japanese films of this nature where the comedy and the action can get to be so outrageous and over the top that you can't help but shake your head, Drop balances it so perfectly. The comedy is pitch-perfect and so well timed, be it actual jokes or purely just reactions to what's happening. And neither director or editor feel the need to smack the audience over the head by illustrating the points at which we need to laugh through stupid sound effects or brain dead shots of operatic facial responses from the characters. The comedy is incredibly organic to the narrative being spun here and the humor is never sold to such a high level as to cheapen it. It's pretty much perfect.
This film hits all the right comedic notes and every action cue. It's astounding to watch it come together in such unexpected way. And surprisingly, the ending of the film contains a poignant message about friendship, memories, young love and the dread of drifting apart from those closest to you. It's certainly not a revelation, but for a film that's spent the last hour and a half focusing on comedic gang violence and social misfits, it's very refreshing to see a little heart. It's almost the perfect little smidge of sentimentality to wrap things up, but the film veers too far into melodrama at points.
The DVD itself comes in a spiffy looking package. The guys in the art department over at Funimation should pat themselves on the back. The image of the film itself can be soft at times though. But on the whole it does a nice job at reproducing the film's rich and varied color palate. The sound mix, however, is something else. Combining the hard crunching noises of the street brawls with the comedic dialogue and commanding voices of the actors, this audiotrack never sacrifices one for the other. All the elements converge to create a perfectly balanced sound capsule of fury and laughter. The only special features present here are a collection of trailers for such films as Alien Vs. Ninja and Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl
All in all, Drop was a surprisingly well crafted, often hilarious, and sometimes poignant look at the tribulations of youth. I can't recommend it enough.
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