Tokyo Tribe is a feature-length rap music video, that combines elements from West Side Story, Spring Breakers, Kill Bill and Boyz n the Hood and then repackages them as an exploitative live-action manga.
Japanese director Sion Sono’s latest feature is as intoxicatingly odd, as it is morally reprehensible. Told through hip hop, the film is a brutal, overly-long rap opera that’s filled with neon lights, tracking shots, exhaustibly exaggerated characters and stylised violence.
Divided into quadrants of youth gangs, Tokyo is overrun with poverty, prostitution, drugs and violence. The comically sadistic Bubba rules over them all, but a full-fledged gang-war is imminent.
The skimp storyline is told through repetitive lyrical battles. While fresh and (slightly) hypnotic at first, the constant lyrical one-upmanship grows tedious over time. It also kills characterisation when every character essentially says slightly different variants of the lines, “I’m the best and this is why.” We get it already.
Intentionally B-grade, the film is turbulent and furiously fun when the tribes are at war. Even though it takes far too long to get there, the finale is absolutely bonkers. While the action choreography pails in comparison to films like The Raid, it remains enjoyably audacious throughout.
Unfortunately, the entire charade is let down by its incessant misogyny. Far too often the female characters are manhandled and demeaned like Japanese sex toys. It doesn’t help that Sion’s camera lingers and loiters far too often in compromising positions over his female characters. It’s all unnecessary and condones (to a degree) aspects of rape culture that exists within the music video industry. While it’s consistent with the tropes of exploitative cinema, it doesn’t relinquish or excuse the film from needing to draw some sort of line or offering some semblance of a message.
There’s a lot of trashy Sion panache to enjoy, but the rampant sexism spoils the giddy ride that the majority of the film is.
THE VERDICT: 2.5/5
Genre: Dark Comedy, Musical, Gangster, Martial Arts, Action
Directed by: Sion Sono
Running time: 116 minutes