Bullet Ballet is both a visually viceral experience and a thinking man's action film. Directed by Shinya Tsukamoto [Tetsuo the Iron Man] the film is about a man named Goda [played by the director] who is so distraught after losing his girlfriend to suicide that he decides to find out why she did it.
His search leads him to a particularly nasty street gang that go around Tokyo bullyng and beating everybody up. Goda goes in search of a gun and after a few failures [including assembling a completely inept gun] he finally gets his hands on a real quality piece.
Goda is a bit of an awkward dope. His planning is abysmal and he always ends up being beat up by the gang. And after a while he unwittingly becomes part of the gang.
Funny, serious, fast and off kilter from first frame to last Bullet Ballet is good for the most part just good fun. But despite the pace and the montage editing it's not really a Hong Kong-style action flic as the title may lead one to believe. Instead it has a more cereberal and fatalistic core.
The film is shot in hand held, high constrast, grainy black and white. It often looks stunning. The editing is also quick but artful. Other than the visual style the thing that most stands out is the film's unpredictability. The main character gets sucked into a world he doesn't understand but in time realizes that he has a lot in common with the members of the gang; Mainly alientation, the inability to communicate and the need to exorcise his frustrations through violent means.
The DVD is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The film consists of handheld high constrast grainy shots and it looks great all the way through. It's tough to tell if there is much artefact because the look of the film is not meant to be clean. English subtitles can be removed.
Audio is in Japanese 2.0 with some loud and soft moments mixed fairly well. The dialogue is somewhat muffled but the soundtrack and the usual Tsukamoto industrial sounds of the city come across loud and clear.
There is a commentary track by Tom Mes, which is full of good info about Tsukamoto and the Japanese film scene. However Mes doesn't spend much time talking about the scenes themselves. There is also a 34 minute interview with director Tsukamoto. It is sometimes slow going since it involves only a single shot of the director talking but it reveals a lot of information and tidbits about his working method. There are two trailers for the film and in depth bio and filmographies.
Bullet Ballet is an intriquing, violent and viceral cult film from one of Japan's best directors. Less a story of revenge than an introspective story about self destruction and violence. The DVD looks and sounds great and the extras are above average. Worth a look.