The Shinjuku Incident


Recently I came to the conclusion that in order to enhance my Mandarin learning, I need to mix in a few other elements, such as regularly watching Chinese movies where Mandarin is the spoken language and listening to Chinese music. There are a ton of Chinese movies out there, but it seems that a lot of the better ones come out of Hong Kong – so are in Cantonese; which is effectively useless to me. While Cantonese has some similarity with Mandarin, it’s basically a completely different language altogether.

 I dropped down to the local Box Hill Xinhua bookshop and picked up a copy of a movie I had been wanting to see called The Shinjuku Incident (新宿事件). Starring Jackie Chan in a role quite removed from his normal action packed (and often comedic) acrobattery(tm).

In this role, Jackie plays either a tractor repairer or salesman named Steelhead, from a small snowy village in what I have to assume is Northern China. I am not actually sure why he was called Steelhead, or why he was a tractor ‘person’ as it really has no relevance in the movie. What we do learn early however, is that Jackie is courting a young girl by the name of Xiu Xiu who has for some reason gone to Japan to find an Auntie of hers.

Steelhead boards a ship full of illegal immigrants and heads for Japan, but the ship is wrecked and he’s forced to hoof it towards Shinjuku where he somehow finds his Chinese friend, Jie. Taking whatever work is available; from sorting rubbish in landfill to cleaning sewers, Steelhead slowly begins to get involved in all forms of petty crime that the Chinese immigrants are involved in – gradually making a name for himself; and a small wad of cash.

And that’s about as much as I am going to say about the plot as it only gets infinitely more confusing from this point. To cut a long story short – and yes the movie went on a little too long for my liking – he discovers that Xiu Xiu has married one of the local Yakuza bosses – who happens to also be conveniently charming and a loving family man, and after one thing leads to another and another and another and his friend Jie is conveniently beat up twice – the second time with somewhat nasty results – let’s just say the earlier charm of the movie is somewhat lost in what becomes just an excuse to have a big climactic battle.

I have to say, the plot was definitely fairly weak, but it was an entertaining movie. There were a few things that stood out to me about The Shinjuku Incident.

1. The relationships between the Chinese and the Japanese was something I had not really seen before in a modern film. The Japanese looked down on them, often referring to them as Chinese Pigs – whilst the Chinese basically had to endure it, dropping comments such as, “If he had the balls to come to Mainland China, I’d chop him up” etc etc. The Chinese and Japanese have a colourful history together with much cultural animosity. In this movie, I wondered whether this was born from this history, or just a general dislike of ‘migrants’ in general – which is a common theme no matter which country you’re in.

2. Beyond anime, it occurred to me that I don’t think i have really seen many films set in modern Japan…period. Beyond Lost in Translation, I really cant think of any. I really enjoyed the extremely different environment to say Hong Kong – which is a prominent part of many Asian movies. Sure there’s many glowing streets and neon’s, yet while they are similar, they are so extremely different at the same time.

3. The combination of Mandarin and Japanese was fantastic. Often various Japanese characters would speak a little Mandarin (their roles meant they knew a little), and I enjoyed the various discussions which constantly crossed back and forth between the different languages. As a language learner, it’s immensely satisfying to recognise various words as they are being said. While learning a language is immensely difficult, it can also be immensely satisfying.

4. The Yakuza element was also interesting enough to have me wanting to do a little further reading on them though while they started off quite  – I don’t know, mysterious or unique in their own way – by the end of the movie they were just your standard ‘mob of bad guys’. Perhaps that is all the Yakuza are, a mob of bad guys, but who knows – early on into the movie I was seeing a very Samurai’esque clan thing going on.

So there we have it. I would recommend The Shinjuku Incident to anyone with an interest in Asian cinema. The plot was somewhat weak and left various characters ‘endings’ completely unexplained. While full of overly convenient plot devices and running just a tad too long, it still was interesting for nothing other than that awesome randomness that seems to occur only in Asian movies – where you literally have no idea where it is going to end up.


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2 Responses to “The Shinjuku Incident”

  1. Trent Says:

    acrobattery ftw!

  2. Sanjay Kumar Jha Says:

    Hi myself Sanjay Jha from India, I have visited your blog. I like to say U have a good blog with gud collections. Keep posting……

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