Monday, July 12, 2010

Japan in Pop Culture: Yakuza in Predators

For those of you who hate any kind of spoiler, stop reading after this sentence: If you are a fan of gritty, dark sci-fi or action go see Predators, which I found to be an entertaining addition to and return to the feel of the original Predator.

If you don't mind a spoiler or two about the yakuza character seen in the trailers, keep reading!

From a sci-fi geek and Japanese culture perspective, Predators delivers in a truly awesome way by giving us a one-on-one showdown between a kendo-trained yakuza with a katana and a giant, beefy Predator using one of its arm-mounted blades. Hanzo, the yakuza, acquires the sword earlier on in the film, and as the characters are running, decides he's going to make his last stand shirtless in a moonlit field with swaying grass (how many anime and Japanese movies have you seen this in?) armed with nothing but the antique katana.

At first, watching him stand and wait, I thought he'd instantly be toast, but thinking about my own "Walmart" katana knockoff, katana in general do have a pretty good reach and are damn sharp. If you were trained to use one you could definitely put the hurt on someone or something, even if it was bigger than you.

So how did the fight turn out? You'll have to go watch the movie. :D

In the meantime, if you'd like to read more about Louis Ozawa Changchien, the actor playing the yakuza, here's an interview where he talks about his background and the movie. One neat tidbit: He's been studying kendo since the age of 5 and his sensei choreographed the Predators katana showdown.

How accurate was the yakuza character himself? Well, he came well-dressed (believable from my own thankfully at-a-distance sightings of yakuza harassing shop owners), armed with a gun (believable as basically only the mafia carry guns in Japan), didn't come already equipped with the sword (which would have been incredibly lame and Japanese-y stereotypical) and had a dry sense of humor for his couple of spoken lines rather than spouting pseudo-Zen wisdom.

I'm sure some people will complain about this or that regarding the character, but given the genre he appeared in I feel it was a fair treatment and worlds better than how the same character would have been handled ten years ago.

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