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Survive Style 5+ (2004)

November 17, 2009

8/10 Acid Trips

It’s not often I get to watch a movie that completely defies categorization, and let me tell ya’, folks, it is quite the privilege.

Survive Style 5+ is about a businessman that gets hypnotized into believing that he’s a pigeon, an ad executive that’s continually looking for strange new commercial ideas through everyday encounters with everyday people, a British hitman that picks his targets based on whether or not their “function in life” justifies their existence, an ambiguously gay small-time crook that’s falling for his partner in crime, and a guy who’s wife just won’t stay dead. If the title weren’t indication enough, it’s as bizarre as you probably think it is, but hot damn is it one hell of a good time.

I watched this movie on loan from my co-worker after totally digging his last suggestion, Three…Extremes. I’ve never heard of it before, Netflix hasn’t heard of it before, Rotten Tomatoes hasn’t heard of it before, and even though those weirdos at IMDB have heard of it before, chances are you have no freakin’ clue what this movie is. No worries, I didn’t either. I’m still not really sure how my co-worker got around to seeing this, let alone managing to hunt down the back-alley bootleg DVD bodega that had this on sale, but, in the words of the great Jeff Goldblum, life finds away.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like to sit down and watch Survive Style 5+, but I’ll do my best. Alright, imagine your six-years-old, you find yourself magically transported to, say, the Japanese version of Candyland, you immediately chug five of those yard-long tubes of Pixie Stix, and nobody speaks English. It’s kind of like that, and that’s a good thing.

From a visual standpoint, everything just pops. Lots of bright colors, lots of wild set pieces and constant in-your-face camera angles that all very much complement the bizarro nature of the storyline. It’s a mile-a-minute experience – I had to do a double-take at my watch when the third Act started – and being that the plot line jumps around from one Survive Style to the next like a meth freak on pogo stick, I’d be surprised if anyone found themselves bored by the time the two hours is up.

It’s too bad that this is the only movie Gen Sekiguchi has done since ’04 because the guy sure has a unique and captivating directing style. His look almost feels like Tarantino mixed with Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) mixed with Stephen Chow (Kung-Fu Hustle – awesome movie!), but still, that’s not really doing it justice.

And as it usually goes with these kinds of things, all five of the stories are all connected to each other in some shape or fashion, usually in a pretty integral way. Not exactly a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s probably the only thing about this movie that I’ve seen done before. Anyway, without getting too detailed, each storyline more or less breaks down into their own little running gag. Some of them really work – the pigeonman’s bird impression is hilarious from beginning to end – and others get kinda old after a while – like the ambiguously gay crook. The good thing is that the final Act puts an end to the gags before they wear out their welcome and adds a hefty dose of meaning to all the madness.

I wasn’t expecting it, but it’s actually quite beautiful in a way. Just what the movie needed to bring it from a 7 to an 8.

The only people anyone will recognize here are Tadanobu Asano (for those of you who’ve seen Ichi the Killer) as the guy whose wife keeps on coming back from the grave, and, quite fittingly, Vinnie Jones as the British hitman. Both are really good and Vinnie Jones just kicks ass as usual. Guy doesn’t really have to try very hard though, now does he.

Look, I have no idea how anyone is going to find this thing if they don’t already own it or don’t already know my co-worker, but if by some grace of God you find yourself lost in the black market section of Oakland, California and see this hot pink poster staring you in the face, pick. it. up. I’ve never seen anything like Survive Style 5+ and while it might not be everyone’s slice of pie, I’d still recommend giving it a fair shot.

It’s freakin’ hilarious, completely original in regards to its script and its direction, and it has one of the best ending sequences I’ve seen in a good long while. And it oesn’t hurt that the scene is set to “I Will Survive” by Cake.

Truly, truly awesome.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2009 12:17 am

    AArrrgghhhh, can’t read this review yet. Ordered this film just before I moved stateside and waiting ’til I can watch it with the 5.1. mix. It’s at the very top of the ‘to watch’ list, sneaked a peak of the score and I’m looking forward to it even more now!!!

  2. November 17, 2009 4:49 pm

    AR, im liking that your reviews go out there from time to time, this sounds like a fun movie

    • November 17, 2009 4:55 pm

      Thanks, man. Wish I came across more movies like this one. I saw it’s for sale on Amazon for 20 bucks or something, but other than that I think you’ll probably be hard-pressed to find it. A worthwhile investment though.

  3. January 16, 2010 1:04 pm

    Yo dude, just stuck my review of this up. This one’s TOP!

    Will get round to the Kreativ post ASAP. Cheers dude!


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