Young Yakuza: Actually Boring, Somehow

Screwing up a Japanese Mafia coming-of-age doc

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Young Yakuza
Directed by Jean-Pierre Limosin
Opens April 18, ImaginAsian

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Director Jean-Pierre Limosin's Young Yakuza, a documentary on the immersion of a troubled Japanese youth into the shadowy, sorta-legal-but-still-illicit world of the yakuza (Japanese mafia), never delivers either the thrill of its underworld setting or much insight into its complicated workings. Limosin's cameras follow as the exasperated mother of 20-year-old Naoki turns him over to the Kumagi clan in the hope that he'll learn discipline and gain focus in his life. Sounding like any businessman lamenting the poor crop of candidates before him, the clan leader offers the wry observation that due to Japan's generally lax and deteriorating expectations of its youth, it's increasingly difficult to find young men with the qualities needed to become yakuza. Limosin's efforts to spice up Naoki's tale with scenes of Japanese rappers don't add the edge he's seeking, but the film really loses steam when—more than halfway through—Naoki vanishes, and a new protagonist is jammed into place. For legal reasons, the replacement can't be seen on camera, and the film's already low-watt energy fizzes, never to pick back up. By the time Naoki finally reappears, the viewer is hard-pressed to care.

 
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