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Having defeated every other gang in the school, Genji’s G.P.S. appears to have won the day. The past however has a way of changing the present, as when Sho Kawanishi is released from prison and returns to the Suzuran All Boys High School. A past leader, in the school, he was sent to prison for knifing the leader of a rival school, Hosen. When Genji unwittingly protects Sho, he breaks a two year truce between the Hosen and Suzuran, leading the current leader of Hosen, Taiga Narumi to declare war...
Crow Zero II (2009 - 2 hr, 13 min, 03 sec) is a continuation from Crows Zero. Directed by Takashi Miike the film was scripted by Shogo Muto, based on a manga by Hiroshi Takahashi.
The first film in the series was little more than an excuse to translate a fight manga into film, which held little message but some great fight scenes. To have followed with more of the same would have been an exercise in redundancy. Muto has crafted a rather clever discussion on the nature of power. Who has it? How it is maintained and how easy it is to lose?
At the start of the film Genji has beaten all his opponents, but he does not yet command the respect of the whole school. In fact his hard attitude is guaranteeing that his control is slipping, even from his own G.P.S. Violence is not enough. His initial desire was to unite the school because his father, a Yakuza crime lord, had failed to do so when he was there. His drive had more to do with beating his father, a motivation of destruction, rather than creation.
Likewise, when Sho is released from prison and inadvertently breaks the truce between Suzuran and Hosen, he too feels that he has to atone for his past behaviour to regain his honour. But instead of choosing the harder path, of living a normal life and dealing with his past, he approaches the Yakuza demanding an executive position in return for killing a rival Yakuza boss.
Even the minor characters all have to travel this hard road between creating something new or following the well-worn path of violence. On the surface the film follows a similar plot to the first, with a comparable number of fist fights, which are staged in a relatively realistic way - relative because all the combatants would have to be on PCB to sustain so many blows and still be standing - but beneath the surface there is a much more interesting philosophical debate going on. The debate is never resolved, after all this would be pushing the bounds of the film and the movie ends with the current students graduating allowing the younger members of the school to carry on the cycle of violence.
The main cast return for the second film with Shun Oguri continuing to portray Genji as, (if I was being complementary) broody. The truth is that through most of the film he comes over as a sulky malcontent, which if you think about, daddy issues included, is probably correct and the reason he is unable to unite the whole school. They may be in awe of his fighting prowess, but at the beginning of the film he has a long way to go to be a convincing leader.
In contrast, the new rival and head of Hosen Taiga Narumi (Nobuaki Kaneko) is played as a quiet tactician, spending time getting to know his enemy and weighing up options before committing his forces. In the first half of the film Kaneko is, by far, the more charismatic actor.
Away from the two main rivals, Shinnosuke Abe plays Sho Kawanishi as a tortured soul looking for redemption and the shame of his crime. Slight overacting aside, this strand of the film could have been an interesting movie in its own right.
Apart from the surrounding towns, the two main schools look like post-apocalyptic nightmares, where the unruly students have defaced every surface. There are not even any teachers apparent in the second film and the movies could well have stood as prequels to Battle Royal (2000).
The DVD is presented with a 2.35:1 anamorphic NTSC transfer, which makes for a soft picture, though this is hardly noticeable in the lengthy, frenetic fight sequences. There is a reasonable Japanese 2.0 audio track, with subtitles, but the film would really have benefitted from a 5.1 track. There are not extras, apart for the Trailer.
Not only plot complexity raises this film above its more mundane brethren, Takashi Miike brings to the film the same high level of direction which he utilised in Audition (1999) and Ichi the Killer (2001), add to that the cinematography of Nobuyasu Kita and the film editing of Shûichi Kakesu and Tomoki Nagasaka and we have a film which ends up being greater than the sum of its parts.