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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Tokyo Rampage (aka Pornostar)
Tokyo Rampage (aka Pornostar)
Image // Unrated // August 29, 2006
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted September 29, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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Tokyo Rampage is Image's re-title for Toshiaki Toyoda's Pornostar. I can understand the derivative new name. Its more Best Buy shelf friendly, and like it or not, that might gain it some more viewers. Hopefully those interested in Toyoda's work won't be blind to the re-titling and know this film is out there. Secondly, the title Pornostar might be a bit misleading because the film has nothing to do with porn or sexuality (though the main character does like to penetrate people, just not with an appendage). I'm not actually sure why the film was ordinally titled Pornostar in the first place, but having seen the directors other films, he's a thoughtful guy so I assume it must have some meaning and isn't just a matter of language barrier issues.

Arano (Koji Chihara) is a very angry young man. He wears a scowl on his face like someone just cooked and ate his puppy. Tall, wearing a n army green, hooded winter coat, and carrying a mysterious bowling bag, he walks down the street bumping into people, unwilling to accommodate his forward movement just because there happen to be other people trying to go about their own business. Arano, literally bumps into low level gangster Kamijo (Onimaru), a slick sort in trouble with the yakuza. Kamijo has a few underlings, a karoke club, a debt to a higher mobster, and problems with another boss, the tacky suit wearing loudmouth Matsunaga, who has been misbehaving in Kamijo's club and racking up a big tab.

Kamijo is ordered to kill Matsunaga, but Kamijo is not really the killing type and finds himself in a sore spot, unable to decline the order because of his lowly status but completely in over his head because he doesn't have a killer instinct. Enter Arano, who is a man of few words, chief of them being the phrase, ‟Yakuza aren't needed.‟ Within Arano, Kamijo finds a violent, socially inept, confused?, simple-minded?, sociopath with a never explained grudge against gangsters, an easily manipulated (though obviously volatile) tool to carry out his dirty work.

There is a huge danger when a film maker is applauded as being hip or part of a new breed. Toshiaki Toyoda cemented himself as a voice of the disaffected with his excellent Blue Spring and 9 Souls. Tokyo Rampage/Pornostar was his debut feature and showcases from the start his flair for magical realism, and taste for tales of ennui, desperation, with curious doses of brevity. Having seen these three films, you really realize, like Jim Jarmusch, the Coen Bros, Antonioni, or Fellini, etc., Toshiaki Toyoda's films stylistically feel like their own worlds. You really get that sense of a directors vision, of one person's sensibilities being the diving rod for every frame of film and the action within. Like countrymen Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Miike, Toyoda has an uncanny knack for dark humor, quick fuse bursts of violence, and a strong grasp for nihilism.

The film works best when exploring the dynamic of gangster and sociopath, less so when Arano gets embroiled with one of Kamijo's jilted hookers. While it is clear both just see their relationship with Arano as a way to use him for their gain, The Kamijo-Arano dynamic works under the surreal environs. The friendship with the spunky hooker girl is less believable, especially because the near-mute pshycho apprently has an actual conversation with her (offscreen and seemingly out of character) and she comments that his "uniqueness" will make him friends and she seems to actually mean it. That dragging point, some visual and soundtrack repetition, and low budget production kinks are really the only sore spots in an otherwise engaging debut film.

The DVD: Image.

Picture: Non-Anamorphic Widescreen. You will not, repeat, NOT be buying this one for the image quality. The films limited production values are not helped by this weak transfer. This transfer is so awash in noise and edge enhancement, I honestly had a hard time determining what medium they made the movie in, 35mm?, 16mm?, 8mm?, DV?, an old vhs camcorder? Contrast is very poor and often has a blue sheen in its darkest areas. Getting decent elements of low budget Japanese movies continues to be a hassle for US DVD companies.

Sound: 2.0 Stereo, Japanese with optional English subtitles. At least the sound is okay. Toyoda loves a grunge-y soundtrack, and the film makes blatant use of distorted guitar themes that sound like they were composed by Bush or some similar early 90's alternative band. Good subs.

Extras: Photo Gallery and Trailer, that's it.

Conclusion: Great debut film. Anyone that has checked out the Artsmagic DVD's of 9 Souls and Blue Spring and enjoyed them will find that Toyoda's cinematic worldview was just as assured in his first film. Technically this transfer is a letdown, no extras of note, and a messy image. Probably best reserved as a rental for most and a casual purchase for Toyoda fans.

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