After a string of lighter films (The Taste of Tea, Funky Forest: The First Contact), Japanese director Katsuhito Ishii returns to the violent gangster milieu of his debut feature, Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (1998). Ishii has worked in animation as well as live action, and his cartoonish imagination is still plenty active, particularly in the Chester Gould-like gallery of supporting characters (my favorite is an elderly yakuza gofer who dresses like an extra on Sanford and Son and refers to hit men as "meanies"). But an unexpected cruelty runs through the movie as well, culminating in a lengthy torture scene that will have some viewers running for the exits. Between the extremes of silliness and gore, this is an intermittently satisfying genre exercise. In Japanese with subtitles.
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