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Gavin Schmitt

Blu-ray Review: "Ley Lines" (1999)

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A trio of Japanese youths of Chinese descent escape their semi-rural upbringing and relocate to Shinjuku, a special ward in Tokyo, where they befriend a troubled Shanghai prostitute and fall foul of a local crime syndicate.

Like many of Miike's works, including the two previous "Black Society Trilogy" entries, the film examines the underbelly of respectable Japanese society and the problems of assimilation faced by non-ethnically Japanese people in Japan. Although it may not be easy for some Western (American) audiences to understand, the diversity between Chinese and Japanese cultures is great, and not always compatible.

What is interesting about this film, as opposed to the first two in the trilogy, is the relatively low level that these criminals are involved in. Rather than top-notch assassins or anything so glamorous, the story involves the dealing of toluene. For those who do not know, toluene is essentially paint thinner. So these "drug dealers" are little more than pushers of chemicals that anyone could inhale (for free) at any time, if they were so desperate for a high.

This film is noted as the "most accomplished" of the trilogy, and indeed it does seem to have the most polish. Maybe not as well-paced as "Rainy Dog" or with the impressive music of "Shinjuku Triad Society". but definitely a film with apparently higher production values. Perhaps not surprisingly, "Ley Lines" was Miike's final film before breaking into international stardom with "Audition" (1999).

As with the other two films of the trilogy, Arrow Video has Tom Mes providing a feature-length audio commentary. It is not as informative as it could be, with Mes often commenting on the plot (which should be self-evident). Those really interested in Mes' thoughts should seek out his book "Agitator", now available in a second edition. This disc does have a few bonus features, as well, that help us get inside the head of prolific filmmaker Miike. We have new interviews with Miike himself, as well as with actor Show Aikawa.

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