Crows Zero (2007)

Directed by
Rather unexciting
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-11-08

Suzuran High is a school for delinquents, divided into gangs led by the toughest fighters in each class. A new pupil arrives, Kenji, determined to do what nobody has done before - become number one by defeating all the other gang leaders. He'll have to defeat Serizawa to get there, as the leader of the largest gang shares the same ambition.

My first viewing of CROWS ZERO left only a general impression that it was basically just kids brawling for two hours. That's not the case at all though, the film has a multitude of subplots involving a range of characters and fighting is actually comparatively rare. I can see why I forgot that though, the bits between the fights are mostly pretty dull and the subplots rarely go anywhere.

The film is tonally uneven, with the young punks acting cool vibe regularly punctured by jarring moments of slapstick or cartoonishly exaggerated violence that are presumably an attempt to capture the aesthetic of the manga it's based on. Not having seen the manga I can't comment on how effective it is in that regard, but I wouldn't say it works on its own merits.

The film lacks a strong visual identity, looking all too obviously shot on digital video and missing the style of close kin Blue Spring - until the inevitable showdown when it finally seems to occur to Takashi Miike that it might need it. Unfortunately he spoils the effect by cross-cutting it with an operation and a bland rock song that quite kill the mood and momentum. Miike has never been a particularly strong director of action and doesn't appear to have hired a dedicated choreographer for this so the brawls are generally rather artless affairs. As much as I dislike High & Low: The Movie and its brethren they at least did that much better.

Miike deserves some credit for trying something new I guess, even if the result isn't particularly satisfactory - I gather it was fairly successful in its home country though, and in retrospect perhaps signalled Miike's shift into a more commercial direction. I'm interested to see how the third film in the franchise, Crows Explode, turned out in the hands of Toshiaki Toyoda... so I suppose I'd better watch the second film as well.