5.0 out of 5 stars Once upon a time in Japan
Blood will be spilled. Bones will be broken. Shunpei Kim is not a man willing to let something as weak as respect for human flesh get in his way, and if sets about to build an empire of fishcakes, you can be sure that he will, even if he has to beat into submission every living thing around him to get there.
Although based on a true story, authored by Shunpei’s son Sogiru Yang, “Blood and Bones” (A literal translation of Japanese title “Chi to Hone”) is not an uncommon plot. We have seen it time and again in American gangster flicks showing Italian immigrants fighting their way up from the bottom until they dominate the viscous landscape. If there is an interesting twist here, it is in showing the life of a Korean immigrant to Japan, a place where ethnic hatred has ghettoized the new arrivals, forcing them into dirty districts where little can be achieved. Also, where the American dramas tend to be sweeping epics, this is a tight and personal film, and the story is all about the brutal Shunpei’s journey across the years.
The bleakness of this film is in direct contrast to director Yoichi Sai’s other films, such as the lovable guide dog Quill. There is a harness here that speaks of reality, and although a man of great willpower and determination, it is impossible to find anything good in the domineering Shunpei, a man who rapes his own wife repeatedly, and keeps mistresses like slaves. The film might seem like little more than an exercise in violence if it weren’t for the outstanding performance by Takeshi Kitano in the lead role. Being the quintessential Japanese actor, it is a little odd at first to see Takeshi as a Korean immigrant, but by the virtuosity of his Daniel Day-Lewis-worthy performance, one is soon sucked into the story and not released until the final scene.
“Blood and Bones” won a whole slew of Japanese Academy Awards in 2005 when it was initially released. It is a film not to be missed.