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Brass Knuckle Boys

(Shonen Meriken Sakku)
  • Japan 2009
  • 125 min
  • 35mm
  • Japanese with English subtitles



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“Demonstrates a tenacious capacity for delivering winning gags when they're least expected” — Russell Edwards, VARIETY


Director: Kankuro Kudo
Screenplay: Kankuro Kudo
Cast: Aoi Miyazaki, Koichi Sato, Yuichi Kimura, Tomorowo Taguchi, Hiroki Miyake
Producers: Makoto Okada, Tsugio Hattori
Print Source: Toei



When bubbly, bright-eyed Kanna Kurita, a 25-year-old talent scout at a major pop record company, bursts into her boss Tokita’s office with her laptop, she’s convinced that this is her last day on the job. No way will he accept her latest pitch, the Shonen Merikensack, a band of barely proficient young punk rockers whose YouTube footage shows them to be far more inclined to antisocial aggression and random violence (hence their name, which translates to Brass Knuckle Boys) than actually finishing a song (exactly the opposite of Kanna’s bland, handsome boyfriend, whose own delicate folk-pop songs about cherry blossoms are the epitome of lameness). To Kanna’s astonishment, Tokita reveals his own past in the punk scene and his conviction that unlike all the wimpy, commercial pop-punk of the present day, the Shonen Merikensack are the real deal. They’re crude, stupid, nasty, nihilistic and utterly incompetent, musically. Just like punk really was, back in the ’80s! Exactly like the ’80s, in fact—when Kanna seeks the band out to sign them, after their clip garners 100,000 hits online, she discovers that the footage is a quarter-century old and the Shonen Merikensack are now bitter, washed-up, middle-aged men. Kanna conspires to pull off a reunion tour, but it’s going to be a crash course in living the gutter-level punk lifestyle for her, and a potentially explosive revisiting of a very sordid past for the band’s Akio, Haruo, Jimmy and Young.

In an appropriately punk-rock style, writer/director (and musician!) Kankuro Kudo (YAJI & KITA: THE MIDNIGHT PILGRIMS) boobytraps his rude, raunchy yet tremendously charming film BRASS KNUCKLE BOYS. There are plenty of precedents for a fictitious rock-against-the-odds ensemble comedy, from THIS IS SPÏNAL TÄP through recent Japanese offerings like GS WONDERLAND and DETROIT METAL CITY, so audiences have a good idea of what to expect from the plot and characters. But Kudo is a step ahead with his surprising twists and turns, and moreover, he’s got a far better grasp of the rock ’n’ roll world’s particular details than many filmmakers who venture there. There’s an authenticity to the tour van dynamics and studio drudgery, the cheap hotels and grimy concert halls, and Kudo’s skewering of mainstream Japanese pop music is dead on. Most importantly, though, Kudo—with the help of a great cast giving it their all—paints portraits of really memorable characters and the way they bounce off of and bash into each other.

—Rupert Bottenberg

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