Plot: Soi Cheang, the director behind the nihilistic hit Dog Bite Dog, veers into even more extreme territory with the unique comic adaptation Shamo.
Convicted of murdering his own parents in a fit of insanity, Ryo Ishibashi (Shawn Yue) is thrown in a harrowing juvenile detention center, where he's physically and sexually assaulted, pushing him to the brink of suicide. But Ryo is rescued from the abyss by Kenji Kurokawa (Francis Ng), an eccentric karate teacher who instructs Ryo how to become a human weapon. The training gives Ryo the will to live, and once he leaves prison, he decides to test his skills in the extreme fighting tourney Lethal Fight, challenging reigning champ Naoto Sugawara (Masato) to a winner-take-all match. But Ryo is still searching for his missing younger sister, Natsumi (Pei Pei, Dog Bite Dog), who descended into prostitution after Ryo was jailed. During his search, Ryo chances upon another prostitute, Megumi (Annie Liu), who comforts him and gives him the strength to move forward, leave his past behind, and battle for his ultimate goal: defeating Sugawara in the Lethal Fight championship.
«Shamo is not quality filmmaking, but it's so "special" that it can be entertaining - that is, if you haven't been put off by its icky content, illogical story, or just plain weirdness. A guilty pleasure.»
«There’s plenty of potential in the core set up of Shamo and the opening act is very strong, the visuals and the story complementing each other perfectly while Yue and Ng both turn in very strong performances as the leads. What then is the problem? Simple. As soon as Ryo leaves prison the film essentially stops developing any of the characters in any significant way. Ryo stalls out in his life completely, his motivations simply stop making sense, and the films spends the next hour doing little but repeat itself.»
«Cheang and the other filmmakers mix it together at near-boiling. For the urban scenes he uses a combination of deep blacks and sickly yellows, and scenes showing Konuzuke's wealth are similarly grandiose. The fights are well-staged even though they're not pretty or graceful; raw hunger and rage makes up for it.»
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