Directed by Takashi Miike 1999 105 mins. Starring Kazuki Kitamura, Dan Li, Tomorowo Taguchi, Sho Aikawa.
Ley Lines is the third and final part of Miike's Black Society Trilogy - the other two being Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog. More a collection of films centered around a common theme than a flat-out trilogy, each is a self contained story with its own characters and events. As such, if you enjoy one, it doesn't necessarily follow that you will like the other two. The three tend to share a similar cast – Ren Osugi and Tomorowo Taguchi, for example – but, even though there's not one extended story arc running through the three movies, they are closely enough thematically linked for the trilogy to gel together.
Ryuichi is a mixed-race teenager desperate to leave Japan . We meet him while he's trying to get a passport but, unsurprisingly given his attitude, he is swiftly booted from the office empty-handed. He heads home and tells his brother Shunrei that if he can't leave the country, he may as well go to the big city. The two brothers are polar opposites; Ryuichi is a small-time bully with hopes of making it in the criminal underworld, while Shunrei on the other hand, studies hard in the hopes of getting a proper job. Despite these differences, Shunrei looks up to his older brother.
Ryuichi meets up with a few of his friends at the bus station, all ready to head to Tokyo . Despite all of them having packed bags, two of them chicken out at the last minute, leaving Ryuichi to board the bus with only just Chang (an expressive as usual Tomorowo Taguchi) for company. Staring blankly out of the window as the train slowly pulls its way towards the city, Ryuichi notices a figure on a bicycle trying to keep up - it's Shunrei, who's decided he will run away and join the others.
Once the trio reach Tokyo , they plan to make enough money to escape Japan once and for all. They decide to kick things off with a slap-up meal. The restaurant owner lets a prostitute (with the delightful alias of "Wild Pussy") use his upstairs room to entertain her clients. After one such "encounter" nearly brings the house down (literally), she offers to get one of her friends and "service" our 3 heroes. After their enthusiastic acceptance, she leads them to an empty room, locks them in, and makes off with their wallets.
After their escape, Ryuichi meets a drug dealer in a toilet. He's a massive black guy who calls himself Barbie, of all things, who introduces him to his boss (Sho Aikawa) who in turn hires the boys to help them sell the solvent toluene on the streets of Tokyo . Toluene is hugely toxic stuff, of course, necessitating the careful decanting of it into medicine bottles while wearing gas masks. And, because it's so noxious, business is a lot slower than Barbie promised, but the boys relentlessly peddle their wares. As they are repeatedly turned down in the street, Shunrei spots a disheveled woman, crying and her clothes ripped - it's none other than Anita, the prostitute who stole their the boys' wallets. The two of them talk, and end up in a hotel room. The other two show up a little later, their initial disapproval giving way to a mild orgy.
Drawn together by their desire to leave Japan, the three now become four as Anita now joins them in their new plan - rip off their new boss...
To say I enjoyed Ley Lines would be a lie, but the word hate is too strong in the opposite direction. Ley Lines is not a bad film by any means. I'm certainly not planning on watching it ever again if I can help it, but if I was forced to choose at gunpoint between Ley Lines and Legally Blonde, I know instantly the way to go.
On the sliding scale of human experiences, I'd put watching Ley Lines between drinking an average cup of tea, and being poked in the eye.
After enjoying Rainy Dog immensely, I was disappointed that the Black Society trilogy would end so flat. On the plus side, Miike once again proves he has a great eye in this film. Tokyo 's dark underbelly is beautifully portrayed - the glowing neon illuminating the dank and dreary streets. Sadly, while the movie was nice to look at, the plot was nothing short of forgettable.
I didn't find a single character likeable to any degree, which meant I found it impossible to sympathise when bad things happened to them. Even Sho Aikawa's winning smile was not enough to really bring the story to life. The performances themselves were fairly flat and emotionless, with the possible exception of Dan Li as Anita who at moments actually showed more than one emotion in once scene. Even the usually manic Tomorowo Taguchi looked like he was just going through the motions for this film.
Considering Miike's staggering pace of movie output, it's not surprising he can't be 100% focused on each film, and that's the overall impression I got from Ley Lines. I hesitate to use the word half-assed, but the movie could probably have been a lot better than it was if a little more time was spent on it.
To sum up, I wouldn't exactly say to avoid watching Ley Lines like you would avoid a rabid spaniel, you may even like it. I'd simply suggest that there are more enjoyable movie experiences out there.
Snowblood Apple Rating for this
Sex: 4/10 (at least there's boobies)
Yaoi moments: 1, but I'm guessing even the most determined Yaoi fan will find it hard to find it sexy
Taguchi's insanity level : bored/10
Films in a Similar Style: err... Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, Another Lonely Hitman
*** A standard genre piece, but quite stylish ***
This film is released by Artsmagic who very kindly provided the DVD for this review.
Ley Lines Wallpaper
please note: the actual paper does not have the Snowblood Apple logo on it.
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2005
Snowblood Apple Filmographies
http://www.artsmagicdvd.com/ and http://www.artsmagic.co.uk - Artsmagic very kindly provided this movie to us for review
http://www.artsmagicdvd.com/leylines/ - the specific page at Artsmagic for Ley Lines
http://www.thegline.com/dvd-of-the-week/2004/08-01-2004.htm - The Gline, as perceptive and interesting as ever
http://www.metamovie.de/film/triad3.html - Harald Gruneberger's usual succinct and very insightful commentary
http://www.hkcinema.co.uk/reviewsdvdleylines.htm - longish review and lots of small images
http://www.nixflix.com/reviews/leylines.htm - NixFlix weren't overly impressed
http://www.foutz.net/movies/leylines.shtml - Scott Foutz's indepth review
http://www.dvdverdict.com/reviews/leylines.php - DVDVerdict liked it. A lot. :-)
http://www.monstersatplay.com/review/dvd/l/leylines.php - a fair piece at Monsters At Play
http://www.kfccinema.com/reviews/drama/leylines/leylines.html - another positive review at KFCC