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  • Ley Lines is the third installment in the Triad Society trilogy, and like the others this is a (almost) serious film. It revolves around a group of outsiders (sound familiar?) trying to survive in the rough Osaka neighborhood. The movie has a very nostalgic atmosphere and since it revolves around the yakuza world, there are a couple of "Miike-highlights" in this one, however without compromising the atmosphere or tone of the film. So like Shinjuku Triad Society this one is sort of a mix between the serious and insane, and a great movie to boot.

    8/10
  • I just completed Miike's Black Society trilogy and I found each and every movie to be very enjoyable. The opening film Shinjuku Triad Society was a bit over the top, but I'm still glad I took the time out to watch it. The jewel in this trilogy of movies however easily is Rainy Dog with Ley Lines coming in as a close second. Both of those films were so hauntingly beautiful and yet gritty in its depiction of the character's lives and their struggles. And although the stories in this group of movies are nothing original, they are a testament to the fact that the way a story is told accounts for a lot.

    Shinjuke Triad Society - 7 Rainy Dog - 8.75 Ley Lines - 8

    Can anyone recommend movies similar to this?
  • Ley Lines (the English title of Japan Triad Society) is the third part of Miike's Triad Society Trilogy but it (and the other parts) can be seen out of order as they contain no recurring characters or storylines. A funny, sad film about bored small town delinquents travelling to Tokyo and being outclassed by the big city criminals. Beautiful camerawork.
  • This was a much more character-driven storyline than one might expect from Miike, and very nicely done, although it doesn't exactly score huge points for originality. We have the hooker with the heart of gold, and the usual tale of three disaffected youths trying to better their lot in life, only to fall into a life of crime that leads to disaster. But all of the characters are still sympathetic, and Miike's way of framing his story against the real sense of disconnection that his Chinese characters feel living in Japan is effective (even if American viewers might only pick it out after having a critic more savvy in Asian societal dynamics explain it first). This is also the most gorgeously shot Miike film I think I've seen, rich with deeply saturated and highly stylized colors. 8/10 from me.
  • The final part of Takashi Miike's loosely structured "Black Society Trilogy" is an incredibly effective film; one that occasionally suffers from the more adolescent moments of shock and spectacle presented in films such as Dead or Alive (1999) and Ichi the Killer (2001), but one that also manages to ultimately overcome such limitations through the combined quality of the script and the performances. Like the other two films in the trilogy, Shinjuku Triad Society (1995) and Rainy Dog (1997), Ley Lines (1999) focuses on ideas of cultural and spatial disconnection, exile, family and the need to escape. It also exists within the same murky environment, populated by gangsters, pimps, prostitutes and lowlifes, all struggling to survive by whatever means necessary. Though at times incredibly brutal - and featuring one scene that really pushes the levels of taste and decency beyond that of the aforementioned Dead or Alive - there is, nonetheless, a strong sense of humour to the film, and a genuine sense of warmth that is expressed through the four central characters and their position as outcasts within a harsh and ultimately destructive world. It also establishes one of Miike's other recurring themes, that of the importance of family; with characters disconnected from their original families and displaced from society, coming together and forming their own makeshift family-unit with a shared goal of escaping Japan for the potential dream of happiness waiting elsewhere.

    It is this central strand of the narrative that defines the film - establishing the background of the characters and the circumstances offered to them in this particular violent underworld - as Miike juxtaposes the more abrasive scenes of gun-play and sexual violence alongside more reflective moments of character and drama. If you're familiar with some of Miike's other films, in particular Birds (2000) and the aforementioned Rainy Dog, then you will be accustomed to this particular stylistic contrast; as the director veers wildly from a shoot-out scene in an alleyway, to a scene of the kids riding their scooters around Tokyo. Moments like this are given an even greater feeling of intimacy and warmth through the use of hand-held cinematography, colour filters and a largely accordion led soundtrack, which establishes quieter moments of transcendence and beauty to punctuate the more shocking instances of violence and brutality. These moments show Miike's true worth as a filmmaker, bringing to mind the sublime beauty of a film like The Bird People of China (1998) with the emphasis placed continually on moments of character; as well as adding a greater depth to the more violent scenes, which simply reinforce the bond between these central characters and their urgent need to escape.

    The power of the characters on both sides of the struggle here, win out; making the elements of human drama ultimately more rewarding, and the moments of violence simply adding to this; reinforcing our connection to the characters and the oppression that threatens to destroy them. By the end of the film we're rooting for their escape and their victory over these warring gangs' intent on maintaining the status quo. However, as the film approaches its climax, Miike begins breaking down the elements of reality even further; obscuring the image with dark red colour filters and fragmented compositions, as well as suggesting certain elements of dream logic. As a result, the ending of the film is somewhat enigmatic. Nonetheless, it does tie together the overall themes of the film perfectly, whilst simultaneously suggesting so much more about those continuing ideas of cultural and geographical displacement and the journey that began when both of these characters decided to leave home. Although it isn't an easy film to view, given the often controversial depiction of sexual violence and some of Miike's more jaw-dropping cinematic touches, including those infamous moments of self-censorship, the overall feeling that we are left with as the credits appear is entirely overwhelming.

    Ley Lines is certainly a controversial and inscrutable work - very much in tune with films like Rainy Dog, Birds and the epic Agitator (2001) with the continual themes of violence, loyalty, family and dislocation - but one that also manages to move the viewer on an emotional level; eliciting sympathy and understanding for these characters, as well as provoking more immediate reactions that still linger, long after the film has ended. The cast is incredibly varied, featuring a strong mixture of talented new comers like Kazuki Kitamura, Michisuke Kashiwaya and Dan Li, alongside Miike regulars like Tomorowo Taguchi, Naoto Takenaka, Kôji Tsukamoto and the iconic Sho Aikawa. The combination of these bold, affecting and naturalistic performances, combined with the heavily colour-filtered images that employ Miike's regular trademark of spontaneous filming on the streets of Shinjuku, lend the film an intimacy and a sense of urgency that is all the more relevant when we think of the central themes of the story. If you're familiar with Miike's work beyond the more widely seen trio of Dead or Alive, Audition and Ichi the Killer, then Ley Lines is a definite one to watch. With this film, Miike creates a bold and incredibly interesting work that manages to skilfully juggle between moments of brutality and tranquillity, character and action, comedy and drama; while carefully blending them together into a cohesive and ultimately incredibly moving whole.
  • Three young delinquents strive to do something with their respective lives, hopping on a train to Tokyo. Dan Li from XX: Beautiful Beast plays a hooker who tricks the young naive men getting away with their many. Karma's a bitch though and her pimp beats her up for having too much money. After a run-in with a truly sadistic john, she runs into the threesome yet again, but she's more susceptible to go along with their various plans. This film, the third and last in Takashi Miike's thematically linked 'Black Society trilogy' combines the feel of the first two. And though I find it head and shoulders above "Shinjuku Triad Society", I don't feel that it was quite strong as "Black Rain", due to the story seeming to be all over the place.

    My Grade: B-

    DVD Extras: An EXTREMELY informative Commentary by Tom Mes (the guy really knows his stuff); 2 interviews with Takashi Miike; Yasushi Shimamura interview; Artwork; Bio/Filmograhies; and a theatrical Trailer
  • It's strange: while I would probably much rather watch one of the more insane and, by virtue of reputation, more popular works repeatedly from Takashi Miike like Ichi the Killer or Visitor Q, a film like Ley Lines or Graveyard of Honor are probably technically better made "films", and is a wonderful but harsh reminder of how dedicated an artist Miike can be with the right material. Ley Lines is dark and depressing and about alienation and filmed often with a detached and unflinching eye on the plight of its young Chinese outsiders. It's also at times, not too unusually for Miike, strange and random and violent and with bits of deranged sex (here, as in other Japanese films, blurred out amusingly with blue lightning). I knew watching it I should've found some of the choices Miike made almost too detached or too pretentious or too stark with its depiction of some kind of reality. But by the end, I didn't care, in a sense.

    That sense really has to do with connection with the bulk of the director's stylistic choices and the characters who with only a little development appear fully realized (or at least sympathetic as the lost and tortured souls of this story). It's about three Chinese guys who leave their blasé suburban lives and go to Tokyo, where they're soon robbed blind by a prostitute. Ironically, and in what is at first irony and then becomes a minor tragedy, the prostitute's Chinese currency doesn't fare at all with her nasty pimp and her other call duties are ugly at best and revolting (or just plain twisted underground crap) at worst, and she ends up back with them by an odd twist of fate. The Chinese youths go through some unsuccessful motions, like selling an ether-esquire drug, before one decides that it's time to leave this dreadful Tokyo landscape: Brazil. A heist is plotted, and executed, but with (somewhat) typical fatalistic results.

    Miike seems to be experimenting, but at times in subtle gestures with the camera and lighting that suggest perhaps his own questioning of himself and his skills as opposed to just what the script requires. It's an exhilarating mix-and-match; early on we get that rushing bravura of the variety where we get put into the rush and vibrancy of youth with the camera tracking unevenly along as they ride bikes or gliding in a long take across the train station into the train car. Then, in Tokyo, sometimes a shot will just last a while on something and Miike won't cut if something violent or action-like is happening right in the next room (in these instances the cut-away to a close-up, or the emphasis on leaving a spot, becomes paramount). And last by not least Miike tries a red filter in the bulk of the frame, adding some crazy but always interesting effect to scenes like the one kid running through the streets to get back to his friend whom somehow he knows is beat up, or in the scenes towards the end (not to mention that very random but affecting moments with that man in the underground room requesting stories from Shanghai girls- very specifically those girls- and a fish somehow makes its way into the inter-cutting of a story).

    On top of this, Miike's actors, most of whom I've never seen much of before with only one (Shoi Aikawa) I can recognize immediately, are all top shelf talents seemingly without doing much most of the time. It's after the heist, of course, that their chops are tested even more, and it's hard not to get caught up emotionally or feel frazzled as the one kid goes on about childhood memories and his mother in the back of the car. Somehow against all of the possible pit-falls of being ironically showy with his attempts at depicting these alienated people and the dregs of society (the real criminals here are go-for-broke evil people, including an oddball African) Miike makes the themes and ideas stand out excellently. In the 'art-film' sensibility, in fact, his compositions are incredible, and his control of fluctuating mood matches that of something out of the French new-wave, comparisons to Bande a part not-withstanding.

    So, in short, don't watch it if you're expecting a Dead-or-Alive or a Gozu. This is serious film-making about tragic and lost souls, with only some (chilling) slices of the wild-man Japanese director we all know and love in some circles.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    -SPOILER WARNING-





    Ley Lines is the last part of Miike Takashi's Triad Society trilogy. It deals with one of the director's most constant themes: The Chinese community in Japan. Three first generation Japanese teenagers, born from Chinese parents, decide to leave their hometown, where they don't fit, for Tokyo. There, they meet several characters: a drug maker, played by Sho Aikawa a Takashi's regular, and his African mate, a Chinese born prostitute and a yakuza boss, also Chinese, played by the chameleonic actor Nakenaka Naoto also seen in films such as Gonin and Shall we dance?. It is lighter, funnier and less violent than the other two trilogy's films. Its main concern is to show the difficulties that these people have for integration in Japanese society, and their search for an identity. This is something that Takashi has already tackled in other films such as Dead or Alive and Shinjuku Triad Society. Their small countryside village, where they were born, is probably a too Japanese environment. Even the cosmopolitan city of Tokyo does not satisfy them and they start making plans to travel to Brazil. This is a very interesting and ironic choice as Brazil was the destination of many Japanese emigrants at the turn of the century, a subject explored by Tizuka Yamasaki in her film "Gaijin". Also, the main character in Kurosawa's "Record of a Living Being" plans to move to Brazil with his reluctant family for fear of a nuclear war. Furthermore, Sao Paulo has the largest Japanese community outside of Japan.

    The film raises questions about how Japan is responding to the influx of Asian immigrants and how these are taken over the Japanese yakuza illegal activities (the running of soapland clubs, pachinko shops and drugs). The area of Shinjuku, once a traditional yakuza feud, is now in the hands of the Chinese triads. Does this mean that proper jobs are only restricted to the Japanese? The Chinese yakuza boss is a clear example of this inability to integrate in Japanese society. His yearning for the motherland is too great. He only finds peace of mind when told Traditional Chinese children stories. He is ruthless if he believes these stories are not "authentic" Chinese stories by killing the storyteller. The last shot of the film is an impressive metaphor of this theme of identity search. Starting as close-up of one of the teenagers and the prostitute in a boat, the camera pulls back and flies away from them who are seen drifting in the middle of the ocean. Miike Takashi is a director that likes trying different film techniques. There is a brilliant hand-held camera sequence as the teenagers are trying to sell drugs in the middle of Shinjuku. This cinema-verity sequence shows to its full the exhilarating, bubbling street scene of this area as well as its growing ethnic diversity. It now ranks alongside other world's hot spots such as London's Soho, New York's Times Square, Paris' Latin Quarter and Barcelona's Barrio Chino. Also Takashi likes breaking with some sexual taboos. In all of his films I have seen he acknowledges the existence of people with a rather peculiar sexual taste, without making any judgement on them. So the prostitute shares a bed with the three teenagers and, out of compassion for one of them, has sex with all of them. This does not seem to cause any problems between the boys. Another sequence involves one the of prostitute's customer who likes to peek inside her vagina. For that purpose he uses some sort of surgical equipment to keep her vagina wide open while he is taking a look. Here, there is a hilarious point of view shot of her vagina showing the man's childish expression of amazement and awe.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Anyone who gets tired of Miike's over-the-top style would do well to watch the Black Society Trilogy, three movies with a shared theme of transnational alienation in the underground that stick out as some of his more sober and effective films. Ley Lines is the story of three friends, half Chinese, half Japanese, who run away from home to try to survive in Tokyo. Needless to say, their lives in the underground aren't too successful, as through various run-ins with a Shanghaian prostitute, a drug dealer, and a crime lord named Wong, most of them end up dead.

    Labeled on the back of the ArtsMagic DVD as being an exploration into racism, that aspect covers only about a third of what is going on here. There are many discussions in the movie, indeed, about race, oftentimes with racial slurs bleeped out (Miike is not one to censor himself, so someone else must have censored him; on the other hand, not all bad words and slurs are censored, so maybe the censorship was purposeful to provide a bit of ambiguity as to what the characters are actually saying. I can't tell). The Black Society Trilogy, however, is about the underground and undercurrents, something that may not seem all that different than Miike's larger oeuvre but which is covered through entirely different concerns. Alienation is the biggest aspect; dangerous self-destruction another. The characters in Ley Lines escape small-town bullying and rivalry to include themselves in something much larger, much more dangerous, and completely out of their ability to handle.

    Ley Lines pops up in essays and descriptions of Miike as one of his finer works, and I have to say I agree. At first I wasn't too taken by it because most of it is under-exposed and dark and it took a while to build. However, both of course were the point: I'ven't seen a Miike movie take its time to build like this since Audition, and the cinematography is a sickly saturated primary color scheme that foreshadows Miike's later Big Bang Love, Juvenile A. Big Bang Love, Juvenile A gets compared to Lars Van Trier from time to time, and if that's the case, I'd compare Ley Lines to a Michael Haneke movie: each scene is built off of a particular, isolated pastiche.

    --PolarisDiB
  • Leofwine_draca31 December 2017
    Warning: Spoilers
    LEY LINES is the third and final part of an unconnected gangster trilogy by Takashi Miike, following on from SHINJUKU TRIAD SOCIETY and RAINY DOG. Once again the focus is on a youthful group of Chinese Triads, this time living in Japan and struggling to make ends meet. The film begins on a light and comic tone as the men mess around and have fun, but then they get involved with a criminal element and things turn deadly. I found this film to be pretty slow and unfocused, if I'm honest, lacking in the kind of basic characterisation that would make the lives of the characters we're watching interesting. Miike can't resist throwing in some perverse and explicit sexual elements but they add nothing to the overall quality of what is a largely lacklustre film.
  • missraze13 February 2017
    I watched the film because Kitamura Kazuki was in it, his sexy beautiful perfect self. And Takashi Miike directing it was the added incentive. But I ended up discovering a film that was rich with emotive content, scenery and symbolism. And Kitamura.

    Basically the film is about Chinese gaijin (Japanese word for "foreigner"), and their strife to survive in the land of the rising sun. You have an average guy called Ryuichi, his soft-hearted, soft- spoken younger brother called Shunrei, and their less than wily childhood friend Chang. They end up befriending a prostitute from Shanghai called Anita, even after she quite easily mugs them their first day in the big city. If it weren't for Shunrei feeling bad for her looking badly beaten up, she might not have been taken along for their dangerous ride, down a perilous path rife with triad and yakuza gangsters and pimps.

    Ryuichi actually beats the mess out of his brother for slowing them down with his sentimental ways. At first and throughout the whole movie, his temper might have seemed contemptible, but when they all meet their sticky end honestly because Shunrei decided to make a fateful pit-stop on their way fleeing out the country as scheduled, everyone should understand why Ryuichi was so hard on the guy.

    There is also what I would call symbolism, specifically with nursery rhymes and childhood fables. Especially for tribal people, religions and ethnic groups, fables and songs are important. They (are meant to) teach values, morals, community... The movie even begins with Japanese kids singing a Japanese nursery rhyme, in red lighting. And Ryuichi and Shunrei as kids were racially bullied in the middle of their singing, then the kids continued along their path singing in Japanese, leaving the two brothers by themselves, looking on longingly. Miike being Korean originally probably understands this. And yes I repeat Ryuichi and Shunrei are Chinese; their Japanese names either is from being "hafu" or half Japanese, or the pressure on the non-Japanese of Far East Asian descent to try to convince Japanese people that they are Japanese, through a name change.

    Furthermore, throughout the movie there is a gangster from Shanghai on their tail. He's not exactly nice but he did forewarn the brothers and Chang that they weren't too cut out for hard survival on Shinjuku's streets, particularly as Chinese foreigners, and under-educated, broke and rural on top of that. And this gangster on the outside is someone who can make you follow a command with not even the point of a finger lest what he would do, but in private, he still locks and shields himself in a dark cellar of a bedroom, like a scared little boy, with many candles for lights as a meditative atmosphere, and no electricity to entertain him like a TV or a radio. His sole entertainment is fables originating in Shanghai, preferably told by attractive Chinese women exclusively from Shanghai, even if they're a prostitute like Anita. Or he literally will go into a manic depression.

    These scenes are also told in red lighting, like the opening scene with the schoolchildren singing. Red in film as I understand is a symbol for bad luck or impending doom. So I feel there is a negative connotation with nursery rhymes, because it is a reminder of their adversity as non-Japanese children, and homesickness for their motherland. The film even ends with them singing while covered in blood, which is red. This whole film is one depiction of how hard it can be to live in Japan from overseas.

    There's other things in the film to hammer down the message of racial prejudice, like a black gaijin, whose character doesn't last long before ill fate meets him, even though he speaks more than good Japanese, and can even use chopsticks, despite the Chinese gangster telling the brothers that they can survive in Japan if they perfected their Japanese accents. Apparently even doing that doesn't help a black foreigner, at least in his field of work: They experience a brief stint in substance dealing (I wouldn't call it drug dealing because the substance they were selling looked to be a cocktail of chemicals and gasoline to huff). There's some comedy though I'd call it dark comedy, such as how silly Chang looks and talks while bleeding, or how angry yakuza get about simple backtalk, or how naughty Anita is and talks before, during and after a beatdown. There's not too much sex and just enough asskicking and blood (and Kitamura) to keep you, or at least me, going.

    Oh yea, nothing good happens in this movie. Nothing. But the movie is great. It's certainly not like modern Asian film, especially the ones set in big East Asian cities. This movie is quite contently 90s Asia. There's nothing glamorous at all, anywhere. Not in hair, wardrobe or backdrop, nor soundtrack. Basically this isn't for date night or kids who like Jpop and Kpop. This is for people who like and who can handle a mature punch to the nose of reality, particularly in Japan's post bubble economy, or when many of their richest and poorest citizens lost everything; the Japanese Great Depression of the 80s and 90s. I'll be thinking of this movie for a while. And Kitamura (wistful sigh).
  • A trio of Japanese youths of Chinese descent escape their semi-rural upbringing and relocate to Shinjuku, a special ward in Tokyo, where they befriend a troubled Shanghai prostitute and fall foul of a local crime syndicate.

    Like many of Miike's works, including the two previous "Black Society Trilogy" entries, the film examines the underbelly of respectable Japanese society and the problems of assimilation faced by non-ethnically Japanese people in Japan. Although it may not be easy for some Western (American) audiences to understand, the diversity between Chinese and Japanese cultures is great, and not always compatible.

    What is interesting about this film, as opposed to the first two in the trilogy, is the relatively low level that these criminals are involved in. Rather than top-notch assassins or anything so glamorous, the story involves the dealing of toluene. For those who do not know, toluene is essentially paint thinner. So these "drug dealers" are little more than pushers of chemicals that anyone could inhale (for free) at any time, if they were so desperate for a high.

    This film is noted as the "most accomplished" of the trilogy, and indeed it does seem to have the most polish. Maybe not as well-paced as "Rainy Dog" or with the impressive music of "Shinjuku Triad Society". but definitely a film with apparently higher production values. Perhaps not surprisingly, "Ley Lines" was Miike's final film before breaking into international stardom with "Audition" (1999).

    As with the other two films of the trilogy, Arrow Video has Tom Mes providing a feature-length audio commentary. It is not as informative as it could be, with Mes often commenting on the plot (which should be self-evident). Those really interested in Mes' thoughts should seek out his book "Agitator", now available in a second edition. This disc does have a few bonus features, as well, that help us get inside the head of prolific filmmaker Miike. We have new interviews with Miike himself, as well as with actor Show Aikawa.
  • It is clear from this film that director Miike was ready for the 'big time' and indeed moved from this accomplished work to the celebrated Audition, shown all over the world. Ley Lines is a fast moving madhouse of small time crooks, the homeless and the wannabe youngsters. Presumably filming on the go we are in and out of not only alleys and back streets but main streets too with (if you look) slightly bewildered passers by caught in the camera cross fire. Hectic pace, well drawn characters, a simple enough story and lots of wrong doings having to be avenged. Nothing sounds new about this and yet such is the command Miike has of the action that we are swept along as if part of the goings on ourselves. Bright, colourful, thoughtful, almost romantic, with a hint of sentiment and funny.
  • Ley Lines is the third and last instalment in Takashi Miike's Black Society Trilogy that focuses on foreign gangsters with inner struggles trying to find a purpose in life. Ley Lines both shares similarities and differences with Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog. Despite overall positive critics, I think this movie is the weakest part of the trilogy even though it's still slightly above average.

    Just as the first film, Ley Lines focuses on Chinese-born Japanese that have to face a lot of prejudice and racism which is made clear right from the start in a beautiful and surreal opening sequence. Just like in the second movie, the main characters team up with a prostitute that is also looking for a purpose in life. The main characters clash with local gangsters that also have a foreign background which is also typical for the trilogy.

    On the other side, Ley Lines focuses on three characters instead of a lone wolf. It tells the story of two brothers and their school friend who leave the countryside on a train and hope to become rich, famous and accepted in Tokyo. Upon arriving, they get tricked and robbed by a prostitute but she gets beaten up by her pimp and crosses the path with the trio again and decides to accompany and help them this time. The trio first sells petroleum-based inhalant toulene for a weird local low-level criminal. When they realize that they are still living like outcasts, they plan on moving illegally to Brazil on a cargo ship. In order to finance such a resettlement, they rob a local gangster clan that chases them down until the final showdown at the port.

    Ley Lines has a few brutal and explicit scenes like the other two movies, for example when the prostitute gets beaten up by her pimp and when she has to serve two weird clients which are events that convince her to change her profession, life and identity. On the other side, the film has some situation comedy as well. The brothers' friend is weird, overenthusiastic and eccentric which adds a lot of humour and pace to the film but also feels somewhat exaggerated and redundant at times. The prostitute is also quite quirky and has sexual intercourse with all members of the trio to cheer them up which is portrayed in a surprisingly neutral way as this doesn't provoke any conflicts between the four characters.

    The film is overall less brutal and intense than the first movie and less melancholic and solitary than the second instalment. It's somewhere in between those two films and feels directionless at times when weird situation comedy and uplifting moments are followed by rather depressing or boring sequences. Despite a few solid ideas like showing the constant shift of ups and downs in the lives of the three outsiders, Ley Lines is somehow missing its own distinctive identity and has a few minor lengths.

    In conclusion, Ley Lines is still a slightly above average movie and if you have watched Shinjuku Triad Society and Rainy Dog, you won't regret watching this third and last part of the Black Society Trilogy either. If you haven't watched the other two films, there are numerous other Japanese gangster movies of much better quality you should watch first. Let me suggest you Another Lonely Hit-man, Gozu and Outrage.