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Monday, June 13, 2011

DROP -- DVD review by porfle


Directed by Japanese comedian Hiroshi Shinagawa and based on his own autobiographical novel, DROP (2009) is a seriocomic coming-of-age story in which the human drama, character interplay, and comedy are punctuated by enough smashing, bashing, punches, and kicks to kill an elephant. 

Naive private school student Hiroshi (Hiroki Narimiya) feels "underestimated", so he transfers to a public middle-school where he can become a delinquent.  His first day brings him into fist-and-kick contact with sullen tough-guy Tatsuya (Hiro Mizushima) and his gang of punky hair-hoppers who wear baggy black suits and are always at war with gangs from other schools.  Hiroshi earns their respect and friendship by getting beaten to a bloody pulp by Tatsuya, and becomes one of the guys.

Long story short--Hiroshi eventually learns that there's more to life than delinquency and trying to look cool, as you might well guess.  But before that happens, DROP is a cavalcade of cartoon violence that's briskly staged and really quite invigorating to watch.  Nobody ever gets badly hurt, even though the blows are bone-crunchingly hard and some of the rumbles escalate into extreme, well-choreographed bloody mayhem.
 


There's even a scene in which the good delinquents borrow Tatsuya's dad's car (he's a crotchety ex-Yakuza who drives a cab and calls everybody "bastard") and plow right into a group of bad delinquents, some of whom crash through the windshield before being flung onto the pavement.  It's all in good fun.

While some of this ultraviolence may be a bit reminiscent of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, these droogies aren't anywhere near as psychotic and they generally keep such activities confined within their own ranks.  They really aren't even rebels without a cause, or what you'd call angry young men, at all--they're just bored and don't want to grow up. 

Fortunately, Hiroshi has a positive role model in his big sister's boyfriend, Hide, a construction worker whose example of hard work and responsibility inspires Hiroshi to consider thinking about maybe being like him someday, after he's had enough fun getting his ass kicked on a regular basis. 

While the taciturn Tatsuya is a "Mr. Cool" type who gains strength from the dramatic intensity of his huge orange mullet, his friends are an amusing bunch who turn out to be goofier than they are threatening.  After a couple of brawny bikers are unleashed on them by one of their weaker foes, the marathon series of skull-bashing confrontations between the two sides eventually becomes comedic. 

A more human and even heartwarming side to the story emerges when Hiroshi acts as peacemaker and invites everyone over to his mom's house for New Year's Eve dinner.  Later, we learn that the delinquents (including an overly emotional fat-Elvis thug who latches onto them because he's lonely) are really a bunch of old softies when they can't hold back the waterworks during their graduation ceremony.



Unfortunately, you can't have all of this extreme roughhousing going on without someone eventually getting hurt, and sure enough, tragedy strikes during the final all-or-nothing rumble against the evil biker gang.  Director Hiroshi Shinagawa deftly switches gears between the violence, comedy, and drama, and we care enough about the main characters to get caught up in what happens to them. 

The DVD from Funimation is in 16:9 widescreen with Dolby Digital stereo in both Japanese and dubbed English.  Subtitles are in English.  There are no extras, save for some trailers for other Funimation releases.  You'll want to watch (or fast-forward through) the closing credits for a couple of added scenes.

The first time I watched this film I was mainly swept up in all the action, but a second viewing made me aware of how much quiet, introspective character interaction there is, especially between Hiroshi and Miyuki (Yuika Motokariya), Tatsuya's former girlfriend with whom he's fallen in love.  The final sequences resolve the story nicely, not quite giving us a happy ending but rather the potential for one.  While being one of the more exhilarating gang-fight films I've seen, DROP has more going for it than that and is ultimately quite moving.


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