A man with a seemingly unkillable wife. An advertising executive with ideas as bad as they are frequent. Unrequited homosexual love. A husband and father hypnotised into thinking he is a bird. All of these and much more are packed into the madcap Japanese cult hit Survive Style 5+.
The structure is of five interlocking stories, connected by the travels of a hitman from London (Vinnie Jones) and his business partner/translator. His catchphrase is the direct, “What is your function in life?” that he uses on his targets and pretty much anyone else who annoys him. When he is hired to kill a hypnotist (and does so, onstage!), he inadvertently leaves a middle class businessman stuck in the belief that he is a bird. The man’s wife and two children must then deal with life where the man of the house cannot communicate and spends his days on the roof trying to fly.
The most eye-catching of the stories, however, involves a man (Ichi The Killer’s Tadanobu Asano) repeatedly killing his wife (the impossibly gorgeous Reika Hashimoto) for reasons unknown, only to have her return again and again from the grave. Each time, she has new powers and a thirst for vengeance.
Director Gen Sekiguchi juggles these elements with a terrific line in dark humour and a visually dazzling style. Of particular note is the eye-watering production design, which crams a rainbow of bright colours into seemingly every shot. The detail is extraordinary, like an assault on the eyes, but perfectly fits the surreal world the plot plays out in – a world where it is fine for a woman to fire her arms like rocket launchers or for an assassination agency to have framed photos on its walls of the victims it has been hired to kill.
Although not an anthology film, the interlocking stories approach does lead to the flaw common with that type. The individual plots are simple and do not carry sufficient weight in terms of narrative to retain interest. Fortunately, Sekiguchi’s mobile camerawork, superb soundtrack and striking imagery more than make up the difference. And, despite the simplicity of it all, the film manages a gloriously happy ending that would affect even the sternest of hearts.
Frenetic and stylish, Survive Style 5+ plays out like the dictionary definition of a cult film. Energetic, fresh and absolutely impossible to watch without a smile on your face. It may not be high-brow or deep, but Survive Style 5+ is damn fun filmmaking.
Survive Style 5+ is available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment