There are some great gangster movies out there. From Scarface to Casino to A Better Tomorrow, there are many different styles of mobster film, but they all have some things in common. Now Japanese director Zeze Takahisa brings a new twist on this old genre. His movie Moon Child looks at the lives of several friends growing up in a world of crime. But this group has an edge, because one of them is a vampire.
In the not too distant future, Japan undergoes an economic crisis. Unemployment is high, and so is the crime rate. In this world three homeless orphans commit petty crimes in order to survive. One evening Sho befriends an odd man he meets in an abandoned warehouse. The man, Kei, turns out to be a good friend to have. He's a vampire, and over the years he trains Sho in that art of fighting. Sho and his friends, with Kei's help, start rising in the underworld. They come up with schemes and crimes that net them a lot of cash and keep Kei filled with human blood.
But as the years go by, Kei and Sho fall for the same woman, and the group of friends start to get noticed by the Yukuza. The local mob offers to let them join, but only after killing one of their group. Sho refused, and that starts a war. The tension of these events wears on the old friends leading to an inevitable climax.
This was an interesting movie; a gangster film where one of the gangsters is a vampire. It definitely falls in the mobster film genre though, documenting the rise of a street urchin to a crime lord. The first two thirds of the film is very exciting, with lots of action. There are several battle scenes filled with gunplay, and the plot keeps you riveted. Unfortunately, the last third of the film eschews the violence and action of the first section and turns into a melodrama. This last part of the film really drags and turns an otherwise excellent movie into just a pretty good one.
There are several things that this film does very well. The passage of time is illustrated in several different unique ways. Showing a new mural turn into a faded and graffiti filed wall was an effective way of letting the audience know that several years had passed. The makeup was very good also, aging the characters subtly, but not making them look like young people wearing makeup as so often happens.
Ironically, the direction was better at the end of the film than the fast paced beginning. The director used a lot of shaky camera shots in the first battles and artsy tricks like turning the camera upside down as people walk up stairs that I found distracting. It reminds you that you're watching a movie, which makes it that much harder to suspend your disbelief.
The many gun fights in the movie were rather unrealistic but still fun and exciting. The fact that a bank of televisions directly behind a group of villains never gets shot during the course of a fight was ludicrous, but it was still an exciting scene. Unfortunately there were too many of those over the top action scenes, and they started to loose their effectiveness as the movie progressed. There were several scenes where two antagonists pull guns on each other at the same time. The first time it was nice, but by the third or fourth time I was ready for something else. (And the tension was never as thick as it was when John Woo pulled the same trick in The Killer.)
Even with these faults, this is an exciting action packed film. The personalities are interesting, and the action is thick. A very unique take on the typical gangster movie.
The Japanese stereo soundtrack was good, but I would have loved to hear a 5.1 mix. As it is, the audio was very dynamic with the quite conversations coming through clearly and the battles are loud and vibrant. Not as forceful as a dedicated subwoofer track would have made it, but still very vigorous. There is no hiss or distortion, a nice sounding disc. There are English subtitles.
This disc boasts an anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks very good. Being a vampire movie, much of it takes place at night. Luckily there is an excellent level of detail in the shadows and dark areas. The colors are accurate and the encoding defects are at a minimum. A nice looking DVD.
The only extra is a photo gallery consisting of nine production and behind the scene stills.
I really enjoyed most of this film. Though I thought the last third of it was a little overly dramatic and slower paced, the earlier parts made up for any shortcomings the climax had. An action packed adventure into the underworld, Blood Moon is sure to please fans of gangster movies and vampire films. A high recommendation.