Crows Zero II – DVD Review

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Crows Zero II is the sequel to Takashi Miike’s 2007 hit Crows Zero, set at the Suzuran High School for Boys the film is about as far from a high school movie as you could imagine with the story being concerned with the infighting amongst a fragile alliance of gangs and their common enemy in the form of rival school, Hosen Academy. I should mention straight off that I haven’t seen the original – which is not ideal, but at the same time the movie fills you in on all the details that you need to know without leading to much, if any, confusion.

Suzuran High School, or “School of Crows” (hence the title), is a disparate state of gangs with it’s former leader, Serizawa, having been beaten in the previous movie by now leader Genji, whose G.P.S. Alliance is trying to unite the school as one. Tension is thrown into the mix with the return of Kawanishi, a former Suzuran who two years previously knifed and killed the leader of Hosen, an act for which Hosen would like revenge but that also led to an uneasy truce between the two schools. Inevitably the truce is broken and the two schools are thrown into all out war. It takes at least 40 minutes for all of that information to seep through – perhaps this wouldn’t quite take as long if I’d seen the original – and clocking in at over 2 hours and 10 minutes the movie could do with being a bit more succinct. For instance there are numerous superfluous club scenes where the background music becomes a full performance video, without these ‘trendy’ J-Rock interludes aimed at playing towards a certain audience style the movie would flow better – as it is the movie is filled with a constant guitar heavy J-Rock score that is a standard for this genre.

For a Takashi Miike film Crows Zero II is remarkably restrained on gore and violence, which is not to say that it doesn’t have any, indeed the default reaction to any line of dialogue seems to be to head butt or punch someone. The story is a mixture of remarkably simple – basically it’s one school versus another – and at times bafflingly complex, with the dynamic between all of the various gangs, not to mention the inclusion of Yakuza gangs and Genji’s Yakuza boss father, all adding to a sense that the movie is perhaps trying too hard in between the action sequences. Perhaps that is as an attempt to increase the character development from the first film, but for me it came across as getting in the way of the actual story – for instance one slap stick comedy scene involving a character trying to scare a girl with a snake as a method of seduction is at once very Miike (for his versatility of mixing a variety of styles) and yet also completely and totally irrelevant.

The movie slowly builds to the final climactic action sequence, the only one that is really of any merit, where a 200+ person brawl takes place over more than 20 minutes of screen time. This end sequence is much more the frenzied Miike style that people tend to like, although it’s still restrained in comparison to the sheer gore-fest of some of his other works. As the showdown between Suzuran and Hosen takes place it builds into a multi-level brawl with various characters holding the floors of Hosen Academy as Genji and Serizawa (finally united) attempt to get to the top to beat the Hosen leader, Narumi. The concept is so wonderfully simple, and entertaining, that it could basically be an 80’s or 90’s beat-em up videogame – beat your way to the top for the final boss. In the end it’s the last fight that makes this film worth it, the plot is middle ground, and the length of the movie made it drag a little until that point. Fans of the first one will likely want to check it out as an expansion of the original story, and overall it’s certainly not bad, but equally it’s not Miike’s best work.

Crows Zero II is available on DVD now.

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