Fans of Sion Sono’s Suicide Club and Strange Circus may be surprised by the straightforward story and lack of transgressive content on display in Hazard. Filmed in 2002 in both Japan and New York, but not released until now, Hazard tells the story of Shin (Joe Odagiri), a student who, in a fit of soul-crushing boredom, hops on a plane to New York City in search of adventure. More precisely, Shin is seeking “hazard“, his catchphrase for all the danger, excitement and mystery that America has to offer.
Upon arrival, Shin is laughed at, thrown from his cab, robbed and ultimately dumped in the middle of an armed robbery. Lucky for him the shotgun-toting thieves both speak Japanese! Lee (Jai West) and Takeda (Motoki Fukami) are a couple of freewheeling part-time stick-up artists who earn their living selling speedball-laced treats from their Mr. Kool ice cream truck. They take Shin under their wing and proceed to educate him in the ways of American life. Before long, Shin is getting high, shooting guns, jacking cars and reading Walt Whitman. Shin’s successful integration is hastened by the fact that Jai West’s Lee manically and effortlessly rambles on in both Japanese and English, punctuated with copious “a’ights” and “ya know wha’m sayin’s,” creating a kind of inner-city Japanese slang that has to be heard to be believed.
The gang’s Lost Boy shenanigans are incredibly fun to watch. Their belief in a life of absolute freedom from normalcy and boredom is compelling, despite its criminality (or perhaps because of it!). However, the wide-eyed touristy innocence that dominates Shin’s actions for the bulk of the film are overshadowed by the bleak ending that heralds his realization of the American dream. Suffice it to say, Shin returns home with more than a t-shirt and a snowglobe...
Hosted by Writer/Director SION SONO
Director: Sion Sono
Screenplay: Sion Sono, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
Cast: Joe Odagiri
Producers: Takeshi Suzuki, Yutaka Morohashi, Naomi Suzuki
Distributor: Eleven Arts