Shamo (2007)

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2007, Art Port Inc./Same Way Production Ltd./Pony Canyon Inc.

Director:
Soi Cheang
Producers:
Hirofumi Ogoshi
Toji Kato
Izo Hashimoto
Shin Yoneyama
Sam Leong
Writers:
Izo Hashimoto (original manga & screenplay)
Akio Tanaka (original manga)
Szeto Kam-Yuen (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Edmond Fung
Editing:
Eric Kwong

Cast:
Shawn Yue (Ryo Narushima)
Annie Liu (Megumi)
Francis Ng (Kenji Kurokawa)
Masato (Naoto Sugawara)
Dylan Kuo (Ryuichi Yamazaki)
Bruce Leung (Kensuke Mochizuki)
Chau Ka-Sing (Kouhei Fujiyoshi)
Ryo Ishibashi (Chief Warden Saeki)
Pei Pei (Natsumi Narushima)
Terri Kwan (Meomi Funato)
Aungkana Sukphapa (Mrs. Narushima)
Adul Kittiwarakul (Mr. Narushima)

Based on the Japanese manga, one can only wonder why Shawn Yue didn’t get more lead action roles as this truly is a breakout role for the Hong Kong actor.

Ryo Narushima is a young teenager who snapped and has viciously murdered his parents in cold blood. Sent to a juvenile prison, he is bullied and raped. Warden Saeki shows no remorse for the mere fact Ryo killed his parents. A suicide attempt is thwarted by Kenji Kurokawa, a new prisoner who is also a karate master. Kenji offers to teach Ryo martial arts so that he will be able to defend himself. When Kenji is offered a chance to leave early, he must do so by killing Ryo. However, he refuses to kill him and eventually, Ryo served his time and is allowed to leave.

Now sporting blonde hair, Ryo has become a gigolo who is looking for his sister Natsumi, who has become a hooker. Unable to find her, he finds Megumi and after rejecting her at first, he eventually warms up to her and she becomes his support system as well as Kouhei Fujiyoshi, who Ryo met while in prison. Ryo also discovers a tournament known as Lethal Fight and hopes to challenge the current LF champion, Naoto Sugawara, in hopes to perhaps, give himself a better life.

Directed by Soi Cheang, known for directing the brutal Dog Bite Dog and Killzone 2, this is truly a brutal adaptation of a Japanese manga by Izo Hashimoto. Hashimoto himself co-wrote the script with veteran scribe Szeto Kam-Yuen and the film makes good use of lead actor Shawn Yue.

Shawn Yue, who started out making rom-com films, truly began to branch out into action films with supporting roles in Dragon Tiger Gate and Invisible Target. This is truly Yue’s breakout role. The film shows a transformation both physically and emotionally as we see Ryo go from teen student to bullied teen to lethal fighter. Yue really bring out a great performance in the midst of the transformation changing looks and showing his various expressions of fear, anger, and at times, cockiness throughout the film.

Francis Ng gives a terrific, no holds barred persona as karate master Kenji Kurokawa. Kenji may seem somewhat like he is teaching Ryo through methods of bullying, but it is clear that he sees something in the brash kid and wants him to fully utilize his skills. Annie Liu gives quite an interesting performance as Megumi, who acts as a well, semi-love interest of Ryo’s, but seems to be more there as a crutch for his problems. Dylan Kuo plays an arrogant karate expert who acts like a big shot because he is part of one of the top karate associations, led by kung fu movie legend Bruce Leung. As for Leung, it is clear he has some very evil intentions as it pertains to Ryo despite accepting him into his ranks.

Jack Wong was in charge of the action sequences and they are done very nicely. Shawn Yue may not be a true martial artist, but he certainly showed how much hard work he put into his training. Francis Ng also shows some impressive karate techniques in the film. The in-ring fights are the highlight of the film though. Yue goes one-on-one with a Muay Thai boxer which at first looks one-sided but done really well. However, the highlight is the climactic fight between Yue and Japanese kickboxing champion Masato, whose Sugawara is somewhat arrogant but doesn’t really show that arrogance if that makes sense. The finale may not be what one expects, but it makes its point very clear.

Shamo is actually a pretty decent film that definitely shows why Shawn Yue could have been a leading action actor. His performances, both acting and physical, are well done here with a dash of brutality mixed in. A definite rental at the very least.

WFG RATING: B

DVD

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