Jackie Chan is well known for films such as Rush hour so it was good to see him in a less comedic film such as the Shinjuku Incident. This is a story of love, growth, power and the cost of freedom.
Jackie Chan plays an illegal immigrant named Steelhead who has killed to be reunited with his ex girlfriend Xiu Xiu. He has crossed the border to a small town in Japan called Kabuki-cho; this is a town corrupt with gang warfare and civil war between the Japanese and Chinese.
As Jiu is extremely anxious whilst performing crime, the gang pull some of their money together to buy him a nut cart which he has always wanted. He makes friends with a local Japanese girl, and her dad sees this. Inviting Jiu in, he beats him up till he can’t move and sends him home. When Steelhead sees this he goes mad and with a group takes his revenge, reclaiming Jiu’s cart in the process.
While he is in Japan, he meets up with an old friend Jiu; Jiu just wants to make money without a life of crime. The rest of the immigrants run through a successful crime scheme in which they rig a life of local casino.
It is Jiu that gets wrongly caught for rigging the casino, as management found out and happened to walk past whilst Jiu was watching it for his friend. The management take him outside to check out his constant claims of having a night cart. Although they see that what Jiu’s saying is true, they decide to torture him anyway as he is Chinese. They beat him up, burn his hand and then chop it off; before they let him go they cut him from cheek to cheek as a permanent reminder to not come into the casino.
Whilst running away from this, Steelhead runs into a man whom he had saved from death in one of his ‘on-the-side’ jobs (Kitano). He is now a policeman and held Steelhead in high regard resulting in him letting Steelhead go. With a member of the police force on his side, Steelhead decides to increase his social status and get his ‘papers’ (documents proving he isn’t an immigrant) by doing assassinations for the different gangs. In return, he gets given ‘control’ over the Chinese section of the town.
With this sudden power, Steelhead decides that he doesn’t want to do any dirty work. Leaving his immigrant friends to run the town, they all enter a dark path of life and get stuck in the gang life. Murder, drugs and abuse all become a way of life to them; Jiu becomes the worst of them all with the abuse he suffered and power he has now been granted corrupting him.
Steelhead finally sees the error of his way, turning to Kitano to try and put things right, in a final harrowing scene, we are shown all the different gangs coming together to attack Steelhead and his men for ‘ratting them out’. We start to see just how corrupted everyone has become, the ending result in Steelhead losing all his friends and dying alone in a sewer.
This film is high in regards to the shock factor, there are many fight scenes but you do not see Jackie Chan’s martial art abilities at all. In fact, Jackie seems to take more punches then he gives out. Although Jackie played Steelhead well, I believe it was Daniel Wu (Jiu) who steals the show, portraying a confused and corrupted soul to the point that the audience felt sorry for him.
I feel that, due to his previous comedic roles, Jackie Chan’s role seemed a bit wooden as he had to play someone with a very dark past which sometimes was hard to portray.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, I found it compelling from the opening scene through to the final credits. The way in which it was structured made the audience focus less on the violence and more on the development of characters as they travelled down the corrupted path.
With the moral “crime doesn’t pay” well established throughout, I believe this was a brilliant film that really captured the trouble between Japan and China, and the corruption within gang life, well. This film could have become predictable with a very basic storyline, however with the use of flashbacks and the ability to relate to the characters it captivated the audience.