Kids Return

After the disappointing uneven 1994 comedy Getting Any?, Kitano returns to form with a (for him) relatively serious and straightforward film about the problems of growing up. Here, mercifully, those problems are not the usual movie cliches about self-knowledge, sexual initiation and doing the right thing: instead, Shinji and Masru, two far from diligent pupils at a second-rate high school, are simply trying to find an easy, acceptable way through life in a world where opportunities for the young are severely circumscribed. From aimless truancy and petty vandalism, the pair proceed, respectively, to boxing and a yakuza gang – professions more glamourous than, say, driving a cab, but with a high risk of failure. Using a large cast of young unknowns, a mostly static camera, and a terse, elegantly-assembled narrative packed with minor but telling incidents, Kitano has fashioned a stylish, low-key fable of considerable integrity and, one suspects, authenticity. The only minor regret is that the hugely charismatic director, so memorable on screen in Violent Cop, Boiling Point and Sonatine, this time failed to find a role for himself.

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