Thursday, December 4, 2008

Unlucky Monkey (Sabu, 1998)

Shinichi Tsutsumi in Sabu's Unlucky Monkey (1998).

While watching Unlucky Monkey, directed by Hiroyuki Tanaka aka Sabu, I thought "Is it just me or has every Japanese film I've watched lately dealt with individuality and individual responsibility?" Unlucky Monkey travels the same path, kind of, but the main theme here is guilt.

When Yamazaki (Shinichi Tsutsumi) and his buddy (Sabu) is ready to enter a bank to rob it, another robber comes running out and is hit by a car. His bag of loot comes flying through the air and lands in the arms of Yamazaki who takes off running with the bag and a knife in his hand. Turning a corner he accidentaly bumps into a young woman and stabs her. He flees the scene and buries the money in a field before taking off again.

Simultaneously, two yakuza are in a meeting with a boss from another gang, applying to join since their own boss is in prison. When their third friend barges in the boss from the rival gang is accidentaly killed. Afraid of the consequences, the three yakuza hides the body, but soon they are being pursued by killers from the other gang.

Both of these storylines are basically the same, except that while Yamazaki struggles with his conscience, being overwhelmed by guilt when he finds out that the woman he stabbed didn't make it, the yakuza are only concerned with saving their own skins. At first Yamazaki tries to but the blame on the victim, maybe she ran into him on purpose, maybe she was suicidal, but in the end he has to fess up and take responsibility and he is willing to give up both the money and his life. When all the characters crosses paths in the end, I think the ability to feel guilt and take responsibility is what seals their fates.

Unlucky Monkey is a great film, it doesn't matter if you watch it to try to find a message in it or just go along for the ride. There are other films like this, where a bunch of characters' fates are just loosely intertwined but where they all play important parts for each other through chance encounters, but not many makes them as great as Sabu.


leigh~ said...

Unlucky Monkey has to be one of my favorite Sabu films. The whole progression of everything unraveling before our eyes is amazing.

Executive Koala said...

I need to see more Sabu, I have only seen Unlucky Monkey and Drive.