Move through Fantasy and Reality while watching Asian Drama!
Description: Kaiji Ito moves to Japan after graduating from high school. Unable to find a job and frustrated with society at large, Kaiji spends his days gambling, vandalizing cars, and drinking booze. Two years later and his life no better, a debt collector named Endo arrives to collect money. The debt collector then offers two choices to Kaiji: spend 10 year paying off your loan or board a gambling boat for one night to repay your debt & possibly make a whole lot more. Meanwhile, the unscrupulous Endo is actually conning Kaiji, believing he won't come back from voyage. Kaiji is then up for the night of his life.
A gambling that never was
Gambling. For some it?s nothing but a game, for others it?s a way of life. But in a world where money is king and life is but a frivolous afterthought, what would happen if one were to literally gamble one?s life for the sake of a set amount of cash? Sound ridiculously over the top and astronomical to you? Sounds to me like the world of Ultimate Gambler Kaiji.
Based on the wildy popular manga by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, the title character is a slacker who is aimlessly drifting throughout life with a dead end job and no ambition beyond getting through the day. When he impulsively wrecks the car of a particularly cunning loan shark, he finds out that he had naively signed a co-lease that has left him astronomical debt. His choices then become clear: either pay the loan over the course of a decade, or come to the cruise ship Espoir for a once in a lifetime chance to clear his debt and come home a rich man. What follows is not only a game of high stakes chance, but a twisted world that not only exposes the evils of greed but also the disparity between the rich and poor in the most spectacular way possible.
Considering what little I knew about the original series I expected to see an unexpected slacker with a knack for gambling rise to the top of the gambling world in a Vegas fantasy sort of fashion. What I didn?t expect to see was a man who was literally fighting for his life in every insane game that the antagonistic megacorperation could come up with to keep the ?trash? at bay. While I won?t say exactly what kind of games you?ll see in this movie, I will say that each game is truly a battle of wits that will leave you in suspense for every second that passes by. Such is the nature of gambling when your very life is on the line, both literally at metaphorically. Not that the lives of the unlucky men aboard the Espoir meant much anyways.
This was an interesting issue that is brought up when it comes to Kaiji, and it is most certainly an issue that rings true with Japanese society. Kaiji, along with every other man who?s on board to win their freedom from debt, is considered to be society?s garbage and is thus treated as such throughout the entire movie. While this could?ve been written off as merely the evil rich people having fun at the expense of the poor, we later learn that such a statement is two-sided. Not only were these victims of massive debt desperate for money, but all of them display a sense of aimlessness or is otherwise unmotivated to do something with their life. Such people range anywhere from worn out salarymen to wannabe thugs to ?freeters?, a term for men between 15-34 who lack full time employment; all of whom are considered to be leeches in an otherwise productive society. This idea of unmotivated men being nothing but trash adds an interesting layer to the story as we see these otherwise unremarkable individuals literally crawl through hell and back just to confirm their own existence. It?s no longer just about willing the money anymore, but it is also to prove that they are more than just parasites on society.
Philosophical musings aside, don?t expect to learn the meaning of life from this film. Even though there are a couple of interesting aspects of this movie that add some depth to the actions of both Kaiji and the megacorperation that he?s fighting against, the over-the-top situations are rather jarring and are a constant reminder that this isn?t reality, but rather one that?s twisted in an almost cartoonish manner. An eccentric rich man seeking to build his own underground kingdom? A series of games where desperate men fight each other for survival? Rich aristocrats watching these men die by the dozens in maniacal glee? This is the stuff that only a crazy Bond villain could think of. Yet despite the sick, twisted turns the movie takes throughout the story it thoroughly succeeds in keeping tensions high until the very end and that must be commended.
The cast of the movie does an overall admirable job throughout. Tatsuya Fujiwara plays the title role and the goofy, almost impulsive nature of this character is a stark contrast to his earlier role as Light Yagami from the Death Note live action films. Though he (in character) comes off as a complete idiot throughout most of the movie, Tatsuya succeeds in playing a liable fool who gets to become a brilliant hero during the last few moments of the film. Other notable performances include Yuki Amami as the cool yet tough loan shark Endo and Teruyuki Kagawa as the wonderfully hammy Tonegawa. Everyone in this cast is playing what?s essentially an over the top stereotype and for the purposes of this movie it works well.
Ultimately, Kaiji is as much a gamble of a movie as the situations the title character is placed in. The gambling scenes are excellent and extremely tense, but the circumstances surrounding these scenes become more and more over the top as the film goes on. Kaiji himself is a rather likable guy, but there are moments where you really have to wonder if he?s just playing dumb or if he?s just a product of pure dumb luck. Fans of the original manga and anime series might be turned off by the changes made for the movie, but casual fans could probably catch on. And though the film ties up its initial story nice and tight, one has to wonder about the fate of those who weren?t as lucky as our main character.
Watch it or not? The cards are in your hand.
Go on?place your bets and take a chance..