Designed by: Idong Ekong
Every director wants to make their “The Godfather“. Every writer wants to write their “Catch 22“. Every video game developer wants to create their “Legend of Zelda“. Sure, it’s a noble cause, but the truth is that the world contains so much media that doesn’t quite reach timeless status. However, that doesn’t mean they’re bad! Sometimes, they’re good and fun, if perhaps a little chaotic. So, that’s where we exist – Positive Reviews looks at the slightly offbeat, the under-the-radar, the almost forgotten.
Today? We’re looking at “Crazy Thunder Road“.
What’s it about?
It’s basically the offspring of “The Warriors” and “Mad Max“. Add in a Japanese setting and a shoestring budget and you have Sogo Ishii’s 1980 hit “Crazy Thunder Road”. Following the manic character of biker Jin, we see Jin coming into conflict with other gangs and, for whatever reason, a Japanese far-right militia. I’d love to say more, but that’s about as much as I can gather.
The most mind-blowing fact is that this film is Sogo Ishii’s graduation piece for university. If you’ve seen any student films from the likes of the Northern Film School, it will make you appreciate the quality of what Ishii does with this film. Similar to Robert Rodriguez making “El Mariachi“, it becomes a shining example of microbudget filmmaking. With budgets now exceeding hundreds of millions for Hollywood films, yet achieving little in the way of creativity and flair, watching Sogo outright clown veteran filmmakers in what was only his second film is truly special.
A Punk Kinji Fukasaku
If you’ve ever watched the “Fukasaku” pentalogy “Battles Without Honour or Humanity“, you’ll be used to what seems like absolute chaos on screen, natural lighting and violence. Sogo Ishii seems to take that ethos and turn it up to the max. While not as kinetic as his later “Burst City“ (1982), you can see traces of the frantic cinematography that seems to match the life of a crazed biker gang. Add in scenes filmed at night and it becomes this whirling dervish of a film that can leave you disorientated.
Where could it improve?
Well, listen. Jin isn’t exactly the nicest of fellows. Whereas not all protagonists should be squeaky clean aw-shucks kind of guys, Jin is just an outright lunatic. In some ways reminiscent of Alex from “A Clockwork Orange“ but without the odd language, Jin is difficult to relate to. It doesn’t help that his biker gang members are kind of… awful; they’re certainly not doing feminism any favours. Furthermore, the whole aspect of the far-right went right over this reviewer’s head – perhaps repeat viewings will increase my understanding but, who knows?
While not perhaps the most nuanced, thought-provoking story, “Crazy Thunder Road“ is fast-paced and manic. The fact this film was a graduation project puts most modern filmmakers to shame. Coupled with an energetic performance from Tatsuo Yamada, this is a prime example of low-budget filmmaking that exceeds its constraints.
“Crazy Thunder Road” is available now on Blu-Ray from Third Window Films.