DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: Hazard

Monday 28 September 2009


Hazard (2008) dir. Sion Sono
Starring: Jô Odagiri, Jai West, Motoki Fukami, Hiroyuki Ikeuchi, Rin Kurana


By Alan Bacchus

Shinichi is a restless Japanese youth bored of his saccharine lifestyle in suburban Tokyo and looking for excitement. He picks up a handbook of the most dangerous places on Earth and finds New York City. So there he goes, an adventure in the urban and exotic environment many Japanese youths only know by its Hollywood depictions and it’s once sordid reputation.

Quickly Shin finds himself an alien in the big city and even gets mugged on his first day. But when he meets Lee, a Japanese-American hustling on the street with a coterie of minor gangland troublemakers he finds his way into the subculture of urban anarchy he’s been looking for. Imagine a mash-up Kubrick’s droogs, Trainspotting’s Begbie and those crazy Italian youths from 'Gomorrah' with Lee as their ‘Artful Dodger’.

We’re in the strange world of Japanese extreme cinema here and this one is off-the-wall even by Japanese standards. The New York in this picture is a cinematic impression of the city completely outside of reality but that peculiar Japanese point of view of a big, bad, alien and thus hazardous environment.

Of course, we don’t get traditional storytelling either, instead Director Sion Sono coasts on constant flow of freewheeling narrative chaos. He shoots the film using a mixture of English and Japanese on location in New York with super grainy lightweight cameras. I imagine few if any permits or organized crowd control was involved and Sono has his actors often interacting with local New Yorkers on the streets with an kinetic run and gun, ‘let’s steal the shot’ attitude.

There’s an exhaustion which sets in somewhere at the midpoint when social disturbance after social disturbance becomes repetitious as Lee and his gang, seemingly without an off-button, continue to throw their hands in the air and yell ‘whoooo’ in praise of their disdain for authority. 'Hazard' is definitely not for the mainstream, but might pique the interest of fans of Japanese cinema and urban subculture, or fans of the edge-pushing filmmakers like Larry Clark or Harmony Korine.

The Evocative Films disc is well packaged with a healthy liner notebook of thoughtful essays and stills about film. The special features include a behind the scenes making of documentary (in Japanese only) and an informative interview with Sono discussing his inspirations for the film.

This review first appears on Exclaim.ca

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