Yoshihiro Nishimura’s Tokyo Dragon Chef is a toned-down version of his previous bloody work, but this reined in style only enhances his joyful work. An utter joy for fans of his work and a handy introduction to those who haven’t seen his films.
Retired Yakuzas open a ramen restaurant and become an overnight sensation, thanks to their recipe developed in prison. But a mysterious upstart gang is taking down every Yakuza family one by one. Drawing the chefs back to the gangland underworld once more.
What the synopsis doesn’t tell its audience is that this is a full-blown musical that adds in the truly absurd scenes that we encounter. As Tokyo Dragon Chef continues our reformed ramen chefs and their old rivals who have opened up competition nearby have to team up to battle the new crop of yakuza’s that are trying to take over their businesses.
This is not a film centred on reality and you can only be thankful for that as these characters are just so enjoyable that there is only love there. Despite that, there are appropriate social comments made about their influence and the techniques they use on social media to get eyes on their content. This also extends to the use of the yakuza with a lot of the cast having portrayed characters in previous films, so these type of characters are old hat for them.
The tale and thought process that yakuza are a dying breed is an interesting one however as this is more of a generational tale of an older generation coping with what they view as a more erratic younger generation. Tatsu and Ryu cannot wrap their heads around everything they witness, be it the vloggers or the new yakuza’s. This isn’t how they were raised and as we have to follow them along with this almost new world.
However, if you are looking for an impactful and indeed thoughtful inquiry into the relationships between older generations and younger ones. You are better off still looking towards Tokyo Story for that. Nishimura, while he brushes the topic, never fully investigates and prods it. It is simply a device to allow the chaos to reign over the movie. Of course, this isn’t anything new regarding the director. It would be rare if he was to be making a social point. The fact that there is only mere grazing he has here with the older generations lack of understanding of how and why the younger generation do what they do is to be expected. Be it their way of controlling situations or the use of marketing and social media there is a slight disdain towards them. But he keeps everything light enough to get away with it.
Humour has always been prevalent in Nishimura films and this is no different here with the film coming across more as a satire due to the straight-faced delivery of a lot of its cast. This form of delivery to the lines allows for the film to get away with its almost light-hearted playful tone. This is not a film that is going to take itself too seriously and in truth. We need films like this to help alleviate the ultra-serious tone of some other films.
Tokyo Dragon Chef is as mad as you can ever hope for. In current times this is a great watch for those who require something a tad more lighthearted and madcap. While not Nishimura’s best, it is still a good bit of fun.
Tokyo Dragon Chef will be on DVD & Digital Download now.
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