Review: ‘Negative Happy Chain Saw Edge’

Japanese pic "Negative Happy Chain Saw Edge" is the type of indie feature that, on its title alone, is assured a place in the hearts of Asian film geeks enamored by trash aesthetics.

Like the South Korean “Teenage Hooker Becomes Killing Machine in Daehakro” (2000), Japanese pic “Negative Happy Chain Saw Edge” is the type of indie feature that, on its title alone, is assured a place in the hearts of Asian film geeks enamored by trash aesthetics. Mostly pointless yarn about a schoolboy trying to prove his love to a nubile martial artist pays tribute to Japanese genre pics (plus Sergio Leone) as refracted through Tarantino’s eye, but is often served up with surprising panache. Cultists will be waiting at fests and on niche ancillary, though wider success will remain elusive.

Handsome schoolboy Yosuke (Hayato Ichihara) is attracted to daring schoolgirl Eri (Megumi Seki) after she rescues him from a cloaked giant wielding a chainsaw. Straight from the Gogo Yubari school of martial arts, Eri does battle every night against this demon from the moon, whose arrival is heralded by suspended snowflakes.

Mourning a daredevil chum who fulfilled his death wish in a motorcycle accident, Yosuke wants to do something with his life — and impressing Eri seems a good place to start. With her martial-arts ability, street smarts and mature demeanor, Eri outclasses him in every way, but still consents to a dinner date.

Pic only comes alive during knife fights, wire-fu and CGI shenanigans. As meller elements take over, viewers will find themselves drumming their fingers in anticipation or nostalgically recalling pic’s high-octane beginning.

First-time helmer Takuji Kitamura has an eye for stunning locations, but sleepwalks through most non-action scenes. Likewise, HD lensing by Gen Kobayashi appears to have been polished to an enviable sheen in CGI sequences, but is fuzzy in regular dialogue scenes, seemingly shot without care.

Lead thesp Ichihara (“All About Lily Chou-Chou,” “Rainbow Song”) gives an appealing perf, while Seki deserves an award for keeping a straight face during the sillier moments.

Digital effects are tops and other credits pro. At screening caught, just-finished pic (sporting a 2008 copyright date) was digitally projected, but Nikkatsu intends to strike 35mm prints.

Negative Happy Chain Saw Edge

Japan

Production

A Nikkatsu presentation of a Digital Frontier, Nikkatsu production. (International sales: Nikkatsu, Tokyo.) Produced by Suguru Matsumura, Kazuhiro Hirose, Akira Yamamoto. Directed by Takuji Kitamura. Screenplay, Hirotoshi Kobayashi, based on a novel by Tatsuhiko Takimoto.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Gen Kobayashi; music, Soulsa; production designer, Yasuyo Kawamura; sound (Dolby), Kazuhiko Yokono; action director, Tatsuo Koike. Reviewed at Tokyo Film Festival (Japanese Eyes), Oct. 26, 2007. Running time: 109 MIN.

With

Hayato Ichihara, Megumi Seki, Yosuke Asari, Haruma Miura.

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