Survive Style 5+ サバイブスタイル5+ (2004)

Survive Style 5+   Survive Style 5+ Film Poster

Japanese: サバイブスタイル5+

Romaji: Sabaubu Sutairu 5

Release Date: September 25th, 2004 (Japan)

Running Time: 120 mins.

Director: Gen Sekiguchi

Writer: Taku Tada (Screenplay),

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Reika Hashimoto, Kyoko Koizumi, Hiroshi Abe, Yosiyosi Arakawa, Sonny Chiba, Kanji Tsuda, Ittoku Kishibe, Yumi Asou, Pierre Taki, Tomokazu Miura, Ryunosuke Kamiki,

What would happen if you remade Pulp Fiction in Tokyo and you substituted the cool for the bizarre and the criminal for the hilarious? Survive Style 5+.

The film takes place in modern day Tokyo with a cross-section of its inhabitants. Within this film, five storylines intertwine and briefly meet:

A man (Tadanobu Asano) repeatedly kills his wife and buries her in a forest. She returns from the dead, quite alive and spoiling for a fight.

An advertising executive named Yoko (Kyōko Koizumi) plans the murder of a lover whilst she imagines a series of increasingly bizarre commercials that her clients (Sonny Chiba) and co-workers struggle to accept.

A suburban family find their lives disrupted after their salary-man father (Ittoku Kishibe) is hypnotised into believing he is a bird.

A foreign hitman (Vinnie Jones) and his translator (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) wander around Tokyo completing assignments.

A trio of young men randomly burgle houses, one of them keeping an infatuation for the other hidden.

“What is your function?” Vinnie Jones’ thuggish hitman barks this question at various people. If this film was asked this question it would answer: to provide pure cartoonish entertainment and a dash of sadness.

The film is highly eclectic and entertaining, setting up characters’ who if they weren’t strange to begin with, become submerged in the strangeness of Tokyo.

The more openly bizarre a character is the better as one rather furious wife and continual murder victim proves when she puts her husband through hell in a series of hilarious fights.

The Viva Friends from Survive Style 5+

My particular favourite is the mighty hypnotist Aoyama, leader of Viva Friends. He is handsome, charismatic and steals his scenes with his super-charged sensualism and, despite being a secondary character, he manages to be highly memorable.

The director Gen Sekiguchi has a background in music videos and advertising and it’s obvious just from watching the film. That isn’t a criticism. The ensemble cast and clutch unique plot threads may not add up to consistent narrative push but are individually fun and visually interesting which gives the film strength.

The director might even be reflected through the character of advertising executive Yoko. Her trials and tribulations with getting people to understand her idiosyncratic imagination probably draw from Sekiguchi’s experience. Her imagination is shown in a series of visually inventive non-sequitir dreams that other people don’t quite get.

With each different narrative strand comes five different candy-coloured sections but the overall visual tone and sharp editing maintains an even consistency in viewing that remains throughout the film regardless of how many times plot threads jump. This helps to keep things fresh and interesting.

Think of the stylised visuals of Park Chan-Wook without Pulp Fiction’s strong criminal-world milieu and you’re there. Or, perhaps, a better example might be if the pan-Asian film, The Three Extremes had its different sections intercut and given a healthy sense of humour and less horror, you would get this. Either way, this is a fun film.

4 thoughts on “Survive Style 5+ サバイブスタイル5+ (2004)

  1. I just watched Survival Style 5 + on the weekend! I absolutely loved it! I have a big old crush on Tadanobu Asano and his segment is so much fantastic fun! I enjoyed every minute of this film and was shocked it was two hours long! The film seemed to fly by and I felt myself wanting more when it was over!

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      I agree about the film, it does fly by but that’s part of its beauty, there’s so much to like about the film (especially visually) and it never outstays its welcome. I’d recommend this for people trying out Japanese films for the first time because it is so enjoyable and surreal.

  2. i’ve seen twice but it’s so crazy i couldn’t connect with it. the strangest part for me was Vinnie Jones as the hitman. the man can’t act so to appear in a Japanese movie is such a strange choice. i wonder if they actually gave him direction?

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