Talk about a SHEEP in Wolf's clothing! All Night Long, director Katsuya Matsumura's controversial character study on the effects of violence on a group of teenage boys, went into my player with standard Japanese gross out expectations. After all I'd heard about this series and it's "uber-violence" and "shocking nature" I was very pleasantly surprised that in the end it turned out to be a complex and genuinely compelling drama that had more in common with Todd Solondz than Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Three young boys with nothing in common ( one's a geeky private school student with college on the brain, the other, a vocational student whose dream is to be an airplane mechanic, and the oldest, a privelaged and lonely layabout) witness a violent murder at a train crossing. The boys develop a bond after the incident and become friends, and the wealthy boy decides that a party is in order to celebrate their new friendship. He tells the others to bring the "best girl they can find" to the party, and each has a week to come up with a date. It is here that we really delve into each character's life as implied by Matsumura's voyeuristic camera style. We see the honor student's struggle with his own awkwardness as he is literally sickened by the prospect of asking a girl out. The wealthy boy strikes out with every name in his phonebook, and finally settles on hiring an escort rather than let his new friends see him as anything less than the virile persona he so desperately needs to be. Meanwhile, the vocational student meets a young girl who reluctantly accepts his advances, and the two share many intimate conversations about their feelings of isolation in a city of millions. It is these moments in which All Night Long rises above exploitation standards and justifies it's character's actions through sparse yet effective character development. When the film veers off into the standard attack/retaliation formula we are already emotionally invested in these characters and willingly participate in their crusade with the same reckless and fatalistic enthusiasm as our onscreen counterparts.
All Night Long is the first of a series of three films that have long been associated with such perversely disgusting films such as the Guinea Pig series, which are basically faux snuff films that were actually made for television, and, while I can't speak for the sequels, I cannot imagine how this film managed to get lumped into that pile of rubbish. Sure it's violent, but it needs to be. It's a film about isolation, insecurity and the sudden realization that man is a creature capable of great evil no matter how smart, talented or wealthy he may be.
Tokyo Shock presents this disc in a widescreen anamorphic transfer that is sharp, with few artifacts. The audio is solid, showcasing a wonderfully haunting slide guitar score by Katsuhiko Akiyama and
Tatsunori Iwanaga. Unfortunately this disc mirrors it's costly imported brethren in that it features nothing by way of extra material, save for a few trailers.
All Night Long is a fantastic film. While I can't say it's for everyone, fans of Takashi Miike (Fudoh, Audition) and Lai To (The Untold Story) will be impressed by this dark, nihilistic tale.