Invoking the spirit of an epic rock show, "We Are X" expresses all the energy, joy and sadness of X Japan's music. There's no shortage of chest-rattling bass and ceiling-grazing pyrotechnics in Stephen Kijak's documentary, but it also intimately reveals decades of trouble in the Japanese metal group's history.
"We Are X" begins in the days before X Japan's 2014 Madison Square Garden concert and looks back across four decades using interviews and archival footage. The packed arena may be a surprise for those unfamiliar with their music, but the movie clearly communicates their talent and global influence.
Founded by composer/drummer/pianist Yoshiki and lead singer Toshi in 1982, the band has sold over 30 million records, while never truly breaking through in America. Even though Toshi was once in a cult, somehow Yoshiki still emerges as the film's most compelling character. Whether playing classical piano for the emperor of Japan or blazing an insanely fast beat on the drums, the frontman remains devoted to his craft, despite physical and emotional pain that would cripple others.
Though this documentary is sure to appeal to the band's followers, it's also a compelling story for those experiencing X Japan's impressive blend of speed metal and glam rock for the first time. Director Kijak deserves credit for constructing an engaging narrative that will have the uninitiated crossing their arms in an X in solidarity by the end.
'We Are X'
MPAA rating: R, for some language
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Landmark Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles