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Wild 7 – Review

by Olivia Saperstein

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Seven wily ex-cons, complete with high-tech motorcycles, are commissioned to debunk a series of terrorists’ acts in Japan, in this chromatic adaptation of perhaps one of the slickest manga series ever, Wild 7. The story follows Hiba, the most stoic of the seven, who has traded a connected life for one of murder due to a formidable past. Hiba falls for Yuki, who we discover is harboring secrets of her own. Leading the sub-plot are obsessive journalists Todo and Kozue, who are resultantly much closer to the motley crew than we think.

Where the manga series was created as a post WWII response to student’s outcries against corrupt government, the film takes place today. But this is clearly a phenomenon that never seems to cease. As long as there is government, there will speculation of corruption, which keeps a plot like this relevant at almost any time period. Yet this remains a playful plot device and not an ominous warning.

Cops are falling one by one like dominoes and it’s a choreographed dance; elegant even—James Bond style. Master of action Eiichiro Hasumi has delivered just that. The director employs no conceit, but gives us exactly what we want and expect out of a high voltage film: explosions, machine guns, political corruption, fast wheels, fancy computers, and lots of metal. (Spoiler alert!) When the seven take to the escalators of an airport on their motorcycles, I couldn’t help but call out a hardy “yeah!”  And isn’t this what we want in an action flick—all of the kitsch of the manga series set in full motion?

There are a lot of moments in the film that are reminiscent of early Westerns; think The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (1966). Again, I bring you to a moment in the airport, as the informants, Yuki, and a mob of terrorists stand frozen, guns pointed at each other. As tension firmaments, we hear not wind-blown tumbleweeds, but the chiming of the elevator doors as they open and close, reminding us that time is ticking. A discerning moment. The very idea of a troubled man living a life of solitude is also western one—bike seat an emblazoned saddle of a 2012 byzantine Japan.

That’s not the only American flavor tossed in, but Hasumi takes a few cues from many U.S. ensemble action films of the past few decades. (Though this also happens in the reverse.) The cast of hooligans, each with their own special talent, is a constant one: Reservoir Dogs (1992), Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000), and Oceans Eleven (2001) are a few good examples. In fact, much of the editing recalls that of Soderbergh’s version of the latter. Both utilize split screens to follow multiple characters at once—reminding us that all of their actions are connected. Yet we cannot fail to attribute references to Japanese anime films, like Oshii’s Patlabor (1989), and Patlabor 2 (1993).

The film’s music, composed by Kenji Kawai, is so Odyssey like—one may expect War Lords. It works; it keeps you there, waiting for the special effects, the shootouts, and pivotal moments that define the genre. Swift violins are stroked between the hammering of massive drums—keeping our eyes peaked and the stakes high. Then courageous horns bellow over the seven who drive in a V shape along the highway, reminding us that they are, of course, heroes in Hell’s Angel’s clothing.

If anything I wished that the each frame was slightly less grey and muted, and held a sharper stylistic quality. It stayed true to the aesthetic of the manga, whose pages are black and white. Harumi seemed to paint the frame with hints of red, as in a partially colored series. Still something felt bereft, too normalized.

Model/actor Eita played a natural Hiba; the role requires not much more than a pose of mysterious heirs, yet he pulls it off without vacancy, and certainly isn’t appalling to look at. Kyoko Fukada, who we recently saw in Before Sunrise (2011), as Akiba, ups the ante with Yuki. While both characters play the edgy female with a dark secret, the former “femme fatale” role didn’t quite suit Fukada like the determined, messenger-bag toting Yuki who cares of nothing more than avenging her parents’ murderers.

While slightly more character development could have been effective from supporting characters, particularly the six other bikers and two journalists, it wasn’t crucial for a film with a simple plot. I would have liked to have seen each of the seven doing slightly more of the tasks delegated to their specialized personas. For instance, BBQ, a short, confused looking lad with spiky red hair, is known for arsonism, but I wanted to hear more than a few words from him and the other members throughout the film.

The lack of depth doesn’t detract from the film, though. If anything it’s refreshing. While there are some philosophical quotes in tow, there is nothing worse than when a fun film gets spoiled with broad statements regarding the meaning of life, or tries to infer too much allegory. “Protect what’s precious to me?” I can dig it. Wild 7 is straightforward and we like it that way. Bring on the guns, Hasumi, bring ‘em on!

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Author: Olivia Saperstein

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