Monday, April 6, 2009

Crazy Thunder Road (1980)



Oh no! Japanese outlaw biker gangs are thinking of forming a union! No more inter-gang warfare? No more fun, I’d say! And so would Jin and his delinquent buddies in the Mabiroshi biker gang. They decided to buck the system by continuing to kick ass and raise hell! When the rest of the biker gangs decide that enough is enough, and try to put Jin and his crew down like a bunch of rabid dogs, one of the founding members of the Mabiroshi biker gang steps in. His idea: to set the young punks straight by enlisting them into his ultra-rightist militia.

Chaos ensues.



Crazy Thunder Road is punk, not just because the writer and director, Sogo Ishii, is a punk musician, but because it embodies the punk spirit: it’s low budget, it’s angry, and I doubt anyone involved really knows how to play his instrument--er, act. But that’s not what’s important. Something like Mad Max meets Sid and Nancy, the important thing about Crazy Thunder Road is its DIY attitude, which infuses the film with its unique spirit.


Ishii envisions Japan as an industrial wasteland, where biker gangs roam the streets unchecked, and the only alternative to the biker lifestyle is, apparently, joining a militia. The only characters who don’t represent either option are Ken (the former leader of the Mabiroshi gang) and his girlfriend; they speak about their love in printed intertitles, and spend a lot of time in bed. So, the alternative seems pretty dull.


Jin isn’t a hero, by any means, but he’s a pretty good punk protagonist: he’s petulant, angry, and largely disagreeable, but you can appreciate him to the extent that he refuses to back down or change, for any reason (even good ones). His obstinacy leads him and his friends into various fights involving knives, chainsaws, automobiles of all shapes and sizes, and eventually guns and bazookas that seem to shoot flares or, in many instances, nothing at all.

So, shit explodes (though not very dramatically), bikers bleed (though it looks like bright red paint), and people die. It isn’t quite as exciting as it sounds. Some of the acting is very bad, and it was shot on 16mm film stock that looks grainy and worn--though it does add to the film’s aesthetics. Things don’t make a lot of sense, lots of subplots seem to be dropped before they begin, and then everyone’s dead. Oi! Oi! Oi!

1 comment:

Doug Tilley said...

The whole idea of Japanese punk bikers, from Godspeed You Black Emperor to Wild Zero, sort of fascinates me. It seems like a strange rockabilly subculture hit at some point, and I love that that weird punk dynamic exists on film in some way.