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Movie review, 'Fudoh: The New Generation'

Over the last few years, Japanese action director Takashi Miike has been making quite a name for himself on the film-festival, art-house and video-rental scenes. In such high-powered shoot-'em-ups as "Dead or Alive," "Audition" and "Visitor Q," he has served up heaping helpings of loud and flashy violence, delivered in a slick package that has heavy appeal for young, cut-crazy audiences.

And on one level, "Fudoh: The New Generation" is just a slightly toned-down version of the extreme violence that Miike would showcase in his later films. But despite the carnage, "Fudoh" is more thoughtful than many of his subsequent efforts, as it addresses questions of fury and revenge through a kaleidoscope of family issues.

Despite the fact that Miike has been turning out two to three films a year since 1999, his hungry followers want more, so Tokyo Shock Pictures has gone back to this 1996 effort that marked Miike's directorial debut, and Facets Multimedia (1517 W. Fullerton Ave.) is giving the film its Chicago premiere Friday.

The story revolves around the Fudoh clan, yakuza gang lords all, led by a cold but powerful father whose word has always been law. When his oldest son crosses him by ignoring his advice and taking a step towards independence (making the patriarch look bad with stern higher-ups) the father punishes his first-born by decapitating him and delivering the severed head himself, to show what a tough and loyal soldier he is.

This bloody act upsets his younger son Riki, however, and while acting the loyal and obedient yakuza-in-waiting for the next 10 years, he is really preparing for the day when he will seek revenge against the cruel old man.

The high point of the film takes place when we first see Riki as a teenager. He plays the role of a quiet, hardworking high school student when he is really the ruthless head of the new generation of Fudohs. At the same time, we witness Riki's gang, comprised of sexy teenage girls and a couple of 10-year-old boys, as they dispatch the four men who took delivery on his older brother's head. (Miike seems to enjoy decapitations, since they guarantee maximum blood flow.)

Before long, however, the story gets confusing, as it introduces a dim, bike-riding bruiser; a long-lost half-brother; and the sexy former paramour of his adored sibling.

But once the body count reaches double figures - it takes about 30 minutes - all Miike seems concerned with is finding creative ways to dispatch his principals, including sexual strangulation, death by acid and a blow dart through the brain.

While one quickly tires of the suffocating violence, it's hard not to be impressed by Miike's commitment to expanding the genre by pulling out any and all stops.

If you're a connoisseur of this type of gory head-banging, you should be impressed. If not, you shouldn't come within a Tokyo mile of this ode to ooze and carnage.

3 1/2 stars (out of 4) "Fudoh: The New Generation"
Directed by Takashi Miike; written by Tishiyuki Morioka; based on the graphic novel by Hitoshi Tanimura; photographed by Hideo Yamamoto; production designed by Akira Ishige; edited by Yasushi Shimamura; music by Chu Ishikawa; produced by Yoshinori Chiba and Toshiki Kimura. In Japanese with English subtitles. Running time: 1:38. No MPAA rating (extreme violence; not recommended for children).
Riki Fudoh - Shosuke Tanihara
Akira Aizone - Kenji Takano
Jun Minoru - Marie Jinno
Touko Zenzai - Tamaki Kenmochi
Iwao Fudoh - Toru Minegishi
Mika - Miho Nomoto
Daigen Nohma - Riki Takeuchi

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