Tokyo Tribe (Movie Review)

Tokyo Tribe (Movie Review)
4 10

PLOT: During one long night in a dystopian future where people communicate almost entirely through rap verse, the gangs that control various parts of Tokyo go to war against a common enemy.

REVIEW: I can easily imagine that TOKYO TRIBE will become a new favorite for a lot of its viewers. I've never seen anything else quite like it. If its tone and style appeal to you, if you feel drawn into the neon-lit, graffiti-covered world that writer/director Sion Sono has created with this film (based on the manga by Santa Inoue), you're going to want to have this unique viewing experience again and again. Other viewers will have an experience like mine, where the novelty wore off very quickly and the 116 minute running time felt like an interminable slog.

The film is an action/musical set in a future where Tokyo has crumbled into a crime-ridden slum, the city overrun by gangs - twenty-three different gangs, to be exact, each claiming their own turf. The worst gang of the bunch are the Bukuro Wu-Ronz, led by a platinum haired douche named Mera, who's the son of criminal kingpin Lord Buppa. Although the newly crowned leader of the Shinjuku Hands plans to wipe out the Wu-Ronz, and the Shibuya Saru and Nerimuthaf*ckaz for good measure, Mera is most concerned with the gang he should be least concerned with: the fun-loving Musashino Saru, who are all about peace and love. Fuelled by a personal vendetta against Musashino leader Kai, Mera plans to lure the gang into a trap.

Lord Buppa regularly has young women kidnapped off the street; some of them he puts to work as prostitutes, his second son Nkoi has some serve him as living furniture, and others Buppa has killed, cooked, and served for dinner. Mera chooses one girl from the latest group of abductees to serve as bait for the Musashino Saru. Unbeknownst to him, the girl is Erika, daughter of a Satanic High Priest that Lord Buppa is in league with. The High Priest plans to make Erika the virgin sacrifice at his next black mass, so once Mera's plan goes south and Kai escapes his clutches with Erika in tow, Lord Buppa unleashes a new gang called Waru into the streets of Tokyo. Accompanied by two very powerful servants of the High Priest, Waru goes to war with every gang they come across in the search for Erika.

In basic description, TOKYO TRIBE sounds awesome, doesn't it? Unfortunately, I didn't find the execution of that story to be nearly as fun as it could have been. Its biggest weakness for me was the element that is one of its biggest selling points - the fact that the story is primarily told through the characters rapping. I'm not a fan of hip hop in the first place, and it's tough to evaluate lyrics when they're in a language I don't speak, but the main problem is how much the rapping bogs down the momentum of the movie. Everything takes twice as long as it should because the raps have to be showcased. The introduction to the gangs alone takes up the first twenty minutes, because each group has to do a little rap about themselves. Some of the rap was admittedly enjoyable, but come on, let's get on with it!

When the action finally fully kicks in, it's not really worth the wait, although Nana Seino demonstrates some impressive martial arts moves in the role of Erika. If there's a movie all about her kicking ass where I don't have to sit through any rap sequences, I would gladly watch it.

There is fun to be had with TOKYO TRIBE. It's completely nonsensical and over-the-top, and some of the actors seem to love to chew the scenery as much as Lord Buppa loves to devour human flesh. Some viewers will absolutely love it. But this was just not a movie that was made for me. There is nothing here that I need to see (or hear) again.

Now go tell your homies that life is dope.

Extra Tidbit: TOKYO TRIBE is set to hit theatres, VOD, and iTunes on October 23rd.



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