When those in the know in the name Takashi Miike, what comes to mind? Weird? Different? Something unusual that you wouldn't see from another filmmaker? Those are just a few things that those familiar with the maverick Japanese director would think of. But, how about pedestrian and somewhat boring? Would it surprise you to hear those words linked to a Miike film? If so, then you may not want to read on about Family 2.
(Author's Note: Family 2 is a continuation of Miike's Family, which I haven't seen. I could find little information on the web about either film. Also, Media Blasters' DVD offers no cast listing in English, so I'm at a loss to identify some of the actors.)
Family 2 continues the story which began in Family and picks up where that story ended, with a battle between two rival Yakuza gangs which ends when one introduces a tank into the melee. As the new story opens, Takeshi Miwa (Taishu Kase) and his wife (?), Rei (?), have fled the city to live in an old church, where they plan to put their past behind them. But, they soon learn that in the world of organized crime, where bribes can shake the most honorable people, it's hard to stay hidden for long. Meanwhile, Takeshi's father, Hideshi Miwa, is doing his best to keep the rest of his family together. Tiring of the gang violence, Hideshi is ready to form a truce with his enemies. However, trust is something which is hard to come by in this violent world.
Again, I haven't seen Family, so I was lost from the get-go with this movie. But, about half-way through Family 2, I got the feeling that having not seen the first film really mattered. Miike and screenwriter Hisao Maki (basing this on his short stories) introduce so many characters and ideas into the movie that it is very hard to follow. The basic stuff such as the assassination attempts and the bribes are pretty easy to follow, but there are long-standing histories between the characters which don't get much explanation. It was like jumping into a daytime soap opera with no prior knowledge whatsoever.
So what you didn't understand the story, you think, Miike's going to give you plenty to keep you entertained, right? Wrong. Unlike Miike's shocking movies, like Audition and Visitor Q, Family 2 is very much a straight-forward drama and plays more like a Scorcese film than David Lynch. Most of the scenes focus on the characters and their issues. There are two action scenes, but both are brief and don't come close to matching the introduction featuring the tank. There is one scene where S&M gear is used to make a man spill a secret, but even this feels pretty tame.
Family 2 defends its honor on DVD courtesy of Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1, but the transfer is not anamorphic. The image looks OK, as the picture is clear for the most part, and there's little grain, but there's no life to it. The non-anamorphic image looks cramped and the picture is somewhat dark at times. The colors are also drab. Artifacting is evident at times, as are haloes around characters.
The DVD carries a Dolby 2.0 audio track which features the original Japanese dialogue. The track is serviceable, as the dialogue is clear and the gunshots and explosions sound fine. There are some stereo effects, but most of the audio comes from the center channel. The English subtitles are easy to read.
There are no extras on this DVD.
We've seen plenty of directors who like to stretch their skills and show that they can work in several genres, and apparently, Takshi Miike wants to be part of that group. This eclectic filmmaker, who has been responsible for some of the most outrageous movies to come out of Asia in the past decade, demonstrates that he can slow things down and make a boring drama. Family 2 is intricate, but it's also slow and inscrutable.