Monday, 29 August 2016

Shinjuku Incident (4½ Stars)

"30% is fate, the rest is battle. If you want to win you have to love to fight".

Illegal immigrants. What do we think about when we hear those words? In America it's Mexicans crawling across the border. In Germany it's boat people pretending they're refugees. In England it's Africans who throw stones at trucks as they pass through Calais. "Shinjuku Incident" presents another type of illegal immigrant. We see Chinese immigrants travelling to Japan by boat.

In the late 1990's, when this film is set, the illegal immigration from China was at a peak. Poor Chinese peasants were desperate for medicine, which was only available to townspeople. Nearby Japan seemed like a paradise, a land where everyone has enough to eat and everyone received medical treatment.

Jackie Chan plays Steelhead, a relatively successful farmer in northern China. Normally he wouldn't be interested in going to China, but when he finds out that his girlfriend Xiu Xiu has run away to Japan he joins other men from his village on the next illegal boat. The boat sinks after hitting rocks near the shore, and Steelhead swims ashore with the other survivors. Together they make their way to Tokyo. At first the immigrants do manual work, such as sorting the rubbish at refuse dumps. Illegal work, of course, so they have to run whenever the police arrive.

This isn't a typical role for Jackie Chan. He isn't a jovial good guy. He's a man who will do whatever he can to get by. Like Tony Montana in "Scarface", he discovers that his greatest chance of success is by allying himself with one of the gangs. First he makes money by selling fake phonecards. Then he steps up the ladder by shooting two rival gang bosses. He's given control over the Kabukicho district of Tokyo, a red light district which is also home to many Chinese immigrants.

In an interview on the Blu-ray Jacfkie Chan says that this is the first film in which he plays a bad guy. That's not quite true. In his very first film, "Enter the Dragon", Jackie Chan appears as one of Han's guards, which would make him a bad guy. But I know what Jackie means. This is his first major film role in which he stands on the wrong side of the law.

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