New York Premiere
97 minutes, in Japanese with English subtitles
Directed by: Yosuke Okuda
Starring: Nao Omori, Ken Mituishi, Asami Usuda, Yasushi, Fuchikami
Saturday, July 14 @ 3:15pm (buy tickets)
Resembling a bank clerk with poorly repressed homicidal tendencies, loose-fisted and actually borderline-psycho, Katsutoshi (played by Nao Omori, star of Ichi the Killer and Vibrator) gets himself into serious trouble at his temp job in a garage when he kills an obnoxious, loudmouthed student with a monkey wrench. Just like him, the rest of the film smells oily and authentic, if you can take the murk and the grit. Fresh from his brief but deadly bout, our badass protagonist proceeds to flee to Tokyo, where he shacks up with his good friend Seikichi who runs a slimy (what else?) night club, ironically called the “Tokyo Playboy Club”, whose classy approach to marketing (“Boobies, Boobies… Fondle, Suck…”) provides an edgy alternative to corporate sales pitches. But even in the seediest, darkest corners of the Shinjuku area, where Katsutoshi goes, trouble soon follows.
Playing like a frantic Guy Ritchie film with occasional pit stops for ramen and the refueling of character and plot, TOKYO PLAYBOY CLUB features, in addition to Omori’s character, a rich assortment of feral men, each of them vying to outdo his fellows in ungentlemanly conduct. Tough nuts and other local thick skins quickly come over for a bit of a kicking, thronged and unabashed, after Katsutoshi brings the pain to a lowlife in a bathroom stall. Smalltime though he might be, the thug happens to belong to the yakuza gang that backs his friend Seiki’s club. The already busy Katsutoshi has a few more minor problems to worry about, mostly related to keeping his friends (and himself) alive.
25-year old director Yosuke Okuda has already made a name for himself with his trilogy of micro-budget gangster comedies, Hot as Hell, but he’s taking things to the next level with this new yakuza film. Now one of the enfants terribles of Japan’s indie film scene, he has synthesized violence and dark humor into a personal, thoroughly modern world of petty criminals, hardened honky-tonk women and ne’er-do-wells: quick, tortuous, greased with fine style, and enjoyably excessive it’s, “strongly resembling something cult legend Takashi Miike would have crafted during his hungrier days.” (Todd Rigney, Beyond Hollywood)