Tokyo Tribe

Tokyo Tribe ★½

Right off the top, I have to say that I've greatly enjoyed what I've seen so far of Sion Sono's brand of filmmaking. Despite some issues, I had a fun time with Why Don't You Play in Hell? and Love & Peace was one of my favorite movies of last year. When I first saw the trailer for Tokyo Tribe several months ago, it looked like something I would absolutely lose my shit over. A candy-colored hip hop musical featuring outlandishly characterized gangsters? Yes, please.

Unfortunately, my experience with this one was just the opposite of what I expected. Watching Tokyo Tribe was painful. How painful? Well, I was only able to consume it in small doses over the last several days — that should give you an idea of how difficult it was for me to sit through this. The world Sono sets up and the detail of the set design is amazingly creative, but the overly indulgent nature of everything on display is really off-putting. For as weird and manic as the other two films I mentioned were, there was a consistency to them and a kind of logical order to the thematic arcs, a "method to the madness" you might say that made them work. This, on the other hand felt like a ton of excess wrapped around very little of substance. Not even the cartoony-ness of some of the characters worked for me. It almost felt like it was trying too hard to be "out there" — to the point at which many of the performances felt stiff and mannered, more like actors posing and mugging than actual people with compelling inner-lives and believable motivations. You have no idea how many times I paused this thing and said to myself "What the fuck am I looking at right now?" The film isn't poorly structured or shot, but there is so much about it that rang incredibly false in the moment.

Oh, and as for the rapping, which makes up roughly 75% of the dialogue, I have two words: Weak. Bars.

Nonsensical. Headache-inducing. Juvenile, but not in a fun or clever way. Utterly exhausting.

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