A stylized and violent thriller, prolific director Takashi Miike's City of Lost Souls
(2000) is set in the ganglands of Tokyo and pays homage to Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino, and, in a weird, animated cockfighting sequence, The Matrix
. Mario (Teah) is the Japanese-Brazilian gunslinger fresh out of jail who, in a hilariously audacious action sequence, hijacks a helicopter to save his Chinese girlfriend Kei (Michelle Reis) from deportation. He must then secure 18 million yen to secure fake passports for both of them to make a new life for themselves in Australia. In a misconceived operation, Mario arrives at the lair of the intriguing Ko, Kei's ex-boyfriend--a self-assured, effeminate young exchange student--who is somehow head of a vicious gang of Triads. He's at the point of buying a consignment of cocaine from decadent, cold-blooded Yakuza gangster Fushimi when Mario's arrival triggers a shootout, with Mario escaping with the wrong suitcase. Now, in time-honored True Romance
fashion, Mario and Kei are on the run from the mob.
Although visually tricky with some strong set pieces, The City of Lost Souls is rather hazy when it comes to story and characterization. We get little sense of the runaway couple as people. A young blind girl is introduced into the tale and there are romantic moments between Mario and Kei, but these feel like sugary palliatives to the bloodshed rather than touching moments. Better perhaps to check out Miike's Audition, a brilliantly gruesome satire on male Japanese attitudes toward womanhood. This is a flashier, faster, but less artistically satisfying affair. --David Stubbs