Three childhood friends embark on a journey to escape their small town life in the finale of Takashi Miike’s tour-de-force of grim that is his Black Society Trilogy (Shinjuku Triad Society, Rainy Dog, Ley Lines).
Following our introduction into the dark world of the “black society” by Shinjuku: Triad Society and the continuation through Rainy Dog, Ley Lines completes the trilogy by bringing to life another thematically related story. Continuing the shared subjects of seedy underworld existence and racial and cultural displacement, Ley Lines moves the focus to a younger generation as we see the disenchantment of modern urban life this time through the eyes of new generation of “half-breeds.”
As the culmination of the series, Takashi Miike returns to the more overt issues dealt with in the initial Shinjuku which Rainy Dog glided over in favour of gently absorbing character driven drama. Though still containing the harsh realities of the sexual and violent nature implicit in the criminal underworld, Ley Lines is the more comparatively upbeat of the loosely linked series. This is attributable to the shift towards a younger generation which, with their foregrounded heritage, Miike makes good use of by interspersing languid nostalgia with brutal reality. Following on from the worldly-weary Rainy Dog, Ley Lines seems relatively positive with the unshakable hope of youth.
Though the story of a small and tightly knit group of friends isn’t new or unique, Miike brings his own recognisable style to a scenario familiar the world over. With his trademark mix of styles he brings his familiar touches of humour and surrealism to an otherwise typically harsh slice of urban realism.
Much like its two predecessors, Ley Lines is similarly un-Hollywood in its portrayal of the criminal underbelly. Like Shinjuku and Rainy Dog, it provides an unpleasantly true-to-life glimpse of a veiled world which many would not choose to be faced with without the release of engineered plot conventions or manipulated characterisation. However, Ley Lines is occasionally considerably lighter in tone than the first two films, with coloured lenses, long takes and some very French sounding music adding an all-round lovely glow to the proceedings. As Miike isn’t one to shy away from the harsh realities of life, the warmingly lightweight lust-for-life scenes of random enjoyment only serve as a further height from which to plummet these doomed souls.
It is no accident that the trilogy should be completed by going socially full circle. From the gruelingly harsh Shinjuku to the numbingly sad Rainy Dog, Ley Lines, with all its shabby romanticism of delinquent youth, serves a more serious purpose. From its opening the scene is set for some unsettling and deep-seated cultural and racial problems that course through the film, just as in the others, forging an alliance with other issues bubbling under the surface of society.
In Ley Lines as in the Black Society Trilogy as a whole, Takashi Miike has produced films every bit as excellent as they are unsettling. Disturbingly raw but rewardingly honest, the trilogy is must-see for those who wish to look beyond the Western branding of Miike as purely a perveyor of the bizarre. A wonderfully gritty movie