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NOTE:Although this Hong Kong Import DVD is NTSC, it is coded for playback in Region 3 only. In order to watch this disc, you'll have to have either a player coded for Region 3, or a Region Free DVD Player.
A kind of hybrid mish-mash of A Better Tomorrow, Underworld and Interview With A Vampire, Zeze Takahisa's Moon Child is a gangster by way of vampires action horror combination that hits a few high notes during playback but ultimately leaves one feeling pretty vacant. In short, it looks really good and delivers some fun shoot outs and gore effects, but doesn't give us much story to chew on in between set pieces until the last third of the movie, at which point it's too little too late.
In the year 2014, Japan's economy has deteriorated to the point where there has been an exodus of sorts. Japanese people have moved off of their island country into other parts of Asia and parts of the continent have become cultural melting pots. In one of these melting pots, three orphans have grown up, having to fight every day for their food and to scratch out a meager living in a (fictional) city named Mallepa in China that is rampant with gangs and drug abuse.
One of these orphans is Sho (Gackt Camui) who is out exploring a run down old warehouse one day where he meets a strange and slightly older man named Kei (Hideto Takarai) who just so happens to be a vampire. He joins up with Sho and his two orphan pals, Toshi (Taro Yamamoto of Battle Royale) and a speech impaired Chinese girl named Yi-Che (Zeny Kwok). With Kei, a master fighter, in their midst, the four of them start to make their way up the ladder of the criminal underworld, able to make enough money to improve their lives and in turn also keep a steady supply of human blood coming in for their vampire pal. Things are going well for the four friends until one of them winds up dead and Kei mysteriously disappears. Did he kill off one of the members of the gang as would be his instinct or did their ambitions put them on the wrong side of a rival gang who are now making their voice heard through violent means? Or does it have something to do with the girl that Sho has had his eye on, the very same girl that Kei has started to have feelings for?
Zeze Takahisa got his start in low budget exploitation 'pink movies' in Japan and is probably best known to western audiences for his 2001 film, Tokyo X Erotica (which was given a domestic release from Eclectic). It's interesting to see him here working with the two male leads who are very well known pop stars/teen idols in their native Japan making what is essentially a mainstream film geared towards teenagers or young adults in their fan base. With that in mind, it's also surprising that the performances in this film from those two same leads aren't terrible. A lot of times when pop stars are cast in genre films, the results are pretty dire (cough cough Andromedia cough cough) but here it works. There's a lot of posing for the camera and the odd glamour shot here and there but these guys can act and they really don't do a half bad job with the material that they're given to work with.
The movie starts off very quickly, throwing in all sorts of shoot outs and fight scenes with some pretty intense, stylish violence. There isn't much character development but the pacing is quick and the movie looks slick. When they do decide to slow things down in the later third of the film, however, it seems to bring what was a completely over the top action movie to a bit of a halt. The drama seems forced and the pacing hurts the movie. That being said, Moon Child does manage to get enough right that, while it's hardly a modern classic, it's still an entertaining movie that is worth a look for those who appreciate a mindless diversion now and then. It's light fare, but for the most part it's fun.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks pretty good on this DVD. There are some compression artifacts present in a few of the darker moments but these are random occurrences and not the norm. Flesh tones look lifelike and natural and color reproduction is quite good. There is some aliasing present more or less throughout the film that gets a little irritating in places but other than that, Moon Child isn't a bad looking movie on this presentation. There aren't any problems with print damage or heavy grain and there's a pretty decent level of both foreground and background detail that thankfully doesn't get lost in all of the night time scenes and shadows in the movie.
The Japanese language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix comes with optional subtitles available in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, and English. This is a pretty active track with some nice channel separation and clean, clear dialogue. The English subtitles contain very few awkward phrasings and are actually quite well done. Bass response is strong and directional effects work nicely, especially in the battle scenes. There aren't any problems with hiss or distortion, and the only thing worth complaining about is that sometimes the levels seem a little bit boosted and there are a couple of brief instances where the performers get a little bit lost in the mix. Thankfully this doesn't happen to often, and for the most part this movie sounds very good.
Menus, a brief photo gallery, and chapter stops are the only extra features of note on this otherwise bare bones release.
Despite the lack of extras, Moon Child is fun entertainment if you don't take it too seriously. Plenty of style, very little substance, it makes for a decent time killer and the disc is a solid rental, maybe a mild recommendation for fans of the genre.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.