Unlucky Monkey (1998)

Directed by
Crime and punishment
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-03-15

When a bank robbery goes wrong, Shinichi Tsutsumi is left holding a bag full of money and a knife and being chased by cops, until he runs into a woman in the street - pointy end of the knife first. He flees the scene but later hears on the news that she died, and the guilt starts to eat away at him.

Meanwhile, a Yakuza family accidentally kills a rival then tries to cover up their crime.

UNLUCKY MONKEY starts with a failed bank robbery and a Yakuza feud like Dangan Runner, but goes off in a very different direction. A plague of coincidences cause the two stories of accidental murder to intersect and overlap as Sabu explores the psychological consequences of killing in his inimitable style, with pitch black humour and surrealism.

It's a far darker film than DANGAN RUNNER, with the subject matter being quite serious even if Sabu's injection of whimsy and absurdity mean that it stays blackly comical even as lives fall apart and psyches disintegrate. Shinichi Tsutsumi first tries to justify himself over what was after all an accident, but eventually finds he cannot live with what happened. I'm guessing Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment was a significant influence on the film, though I must confess to never having actually read it (one day, one day).

Whilst the absurdity and black humour place Sabu's early films on a continuum that spans works films by Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Miike, he has a singular style of his own. UNLUCKY MONKEY is not quite as fresh as DANGAN RUNNER and not quite as brilliant as Monday, but it is another unique and peculiar work that fits neatly in his filmography.