Tokyo Tribe is Japanese bad boy Sion Sono’s most unhinged film, which is saying a lot in a career that spans serial-killing pet shop owners, yakuza snuff flicks, and a four-hour drama about an upskirt panty photographer.
This anarchic hip-hop musical circles Lord Buppa (Riki Takeuchi), the would-be king of Tokyo thuglife and a face-tattooed cannibal in a brocade suit, plus his two sons, pigtailed Yosuke Kubozuka and peroxided Ryohei Suzuki, as the family so outrages the local gangs that they cease petty wars and rise up against the family.
With his eyes rolled back like a tongues-speaking preacher’s, Takeuchi’s Buppa would dominate any other movie. Here, he’s got too much competition: sweat-shirted brutes in samurai helmets, bikini babes with Gatling guns, vans with chandeliers, goons with horizontal mohawks, sex slaves posed like furniture from A Clockwork Orange, a diner who reacts to a sword fight by running around the restaurant with a tangle of ramen in his mouth.
Yet the film is all preamble, no plot. Before battle, each Japanese gang introduces, and reintroduces, itself with a rap (“N-Town doggz, baby — Nerimuthafuckaz!”) that’s more attitude than skill. A few do a convincing imitation of Snoop Dogg, but the nearly two-hour runtime starts to feel like a concert where the hype men won’t get off the stage. Meanwhile, an innocent named Erika (Nana Seino), owner of what her father, a Satanic High Priest, calls “the world’s most pristine pussy,” demands someone — anyone — take her virginity. When that fails she takes to ass-kicking in a flippy skirt that keeps eyes on her white underwear.
Tokyo Tribe is Sono cackling hysterically while smashing a keytar. Sure, there are a few sour notes, but he’s made a great blast of noise.
Directed by Sion Sono
Opens October 23, Videology
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 22, 2015