Japanese Title: ワイルド７
Romaji: Wairudo 7
Release Date: December 21st, 2011 (Japan)
Running Time: 109 mins.
Director: Eiichiro Hasumi
Writer: Mikiya Mochizuki (Original Manga), Masaki Fukasawa (Screenplay),
Starring: Eita, Kippei Shiina, Yuika Motokariya, Kyoko Fukada, Ryuhei Maruyama, Tsuyoshi Abe, Takashi Ukaji, Kiichi Nakai, Kotaro Yoshida, Yusuke Hirayama, Minoru Matsumoto, Jun Kaname,
Wild 7 was one of the first in a series of major live-action movies produced and released by Warner Bros. Japan in what has turned into a trend of adapting a series of famous manga and anime into movies. The list includes Rurouni Kenshin (2012), Black Butler (2014), and Ninja Kids!!! (2011), and Berserk (2012). The formula is simple, take something with an in-built fanbase and brand recognition which has enough elements like action and romance to appeal to a mainstream audience, and make a film with a decent budget, handsome actors and actresses and a solid director. The results so far have been high quality entertainment and this film is no exception.
The story is simple. In the world of Wild 7, Japan is swamped by crime and terrorism and the National Police Agency is struggling to cope with the situation. In steps Inspector Masaru Kusanami (Nakai) who has the suggestion of creating a secret motorcycle unit known as the Wild 7, a group of convicts who are authorised to use extreme force when dealing with criminals who are too tough and too well connected for the police to handle.
Wild 7 consists of a murderers, thugs, conmen, pyromaniacs, and former Yakuza members. They are led by Dairoku Hiba (Eita), a laconic and cynical man who takes no prisoners. When battling a terror group, the guys find find themselves competing with a mysterious sniper named Yuki (Fukada) but a bigger enemy lurks in the shadows and has control of criminals and people in the very government who control Wild 7. Dairoku and his fellow outlaws must decide whether to fight for justice even when they become targets of the law or run…
Wild 7 is based on Mikiya Mochizuki’s manga series which ran in Weekly Shonen King for ten years (1969 – 1979). It was born at a time of student demonstrations and massive civil unrest and social change during the post-war era when Japan’s economy went into over-drive and it has the air of a right wing fantasy as justice is delivered at the end of a gun and with no questions asked.
The new film updates things for a modern age with examples of government corruption, cyber-terrorism and references to the Tokyo sarin gas attacks back in the 90’s. Also appealing to modern viewers will be the latest in a group of young, good-looking actors/idols to fill the roles.
The scriptwriter has turned in a work that, storywise, works well eough but can only be described as functional. Masaki Fukasawa takes time to establish the narrative set-up for the Wild 7 unit by creating a series of banks heists and terror strikes but falls into using too many moments of unnatural and awkward exposition to describe people and situations which breaks the scene. There really are no surprises in the story and the plot turns out to be conventional. It seems that the scriptwriter feels that the drama is secondary to the action scenes which, thankfully, are a better introduction for the anti-heroes and their precarious place in society as disposable government owned hitmen operating outside of the law with extreme violence.
Indeed, with seven characters to introduce to the world a lot of work would be needed to imbue them with memorable features but the script does not provide room for this and so it is down to the actors to make their characters distinctive. Some achieve that and others don’t. Indeed, it would be easy to forget who some are if it wasn’t for on-screen text telling us who is who and visual references like red and blonde hair. Overall, one cannot escape the feeling they are not well-rounded since they get short and sharp appearances to make an impact. It is only headline star Eita and veteran actor Kippei Shiina who get to do any extended acting and Eita’s scenes take up the lion’s share of the character development stakes as he gets a damp-squib of a romance and his backstory explained by a cackling bad guy who also takes time out to discuss his evil plans.
The girls fall into archetypes with an innocent damsel with connections to the Wild 7 played by Yuika Motokariya and a cold sniper with a tragic background named Yuki played by Kyoko Fukada. Both girls would be easily forgettable if the script did not keep bringing them back in all the way through to the very end as plot devices but then the director and writer of Wild 7 know that what they are making an unapologetic action film and do so with style.
For all of its gracelessness in world building and characterisation, once people are put into place, the entire film dovetails nicely into a more elaborate narrative about surveillance society and the perils of the information age. The film does not provide a deep and thorough investigation of any of the issues broached but delivers enough substance for the audience to think about in between the action set-pieces which entertain and shows the Wild 7 at their best especially in the final third which is non-stop action.
These anti-heroes, in their black biker leathers with red scarves, cut dashing figures as they blast bad guys away and are easy to get behind as they slowly and grudgingly reveal their desire to create a better society. With murderous bank robbers, terrorists with dirty bombs and a smug nerd with too much power, the Wild 7 are a welcome return of old school macho action that harks back to action titles like Die Hard.
The action is all conveyed with the glossiness and, appropriately for a movie about guys on bikes, the sense of movement and pace is high. Every scene opens up on interesting locations displayed with a panning shot before the guys roar through on their bikes and blow stuff up (one of the bikes has a side-car with a rocket launcher!!!). The highlight sees the guys get to take their bikes indoors for an extended battle with well-armed and acrobatic SWAT teams in an office space that gets chunks taken out it in massive explosions.
The entire film goes by at a fast clip with edits keeping the pace lively and there is a variety to them from cross-cuts to different members of Wild 7 taking out bad guys, to the sort of intense POV shots in battles that keep the audience aware of what is going on and increase the intensity of the action. The film asks nothing more than for the viewer to watch and enjoy it and there is plenty to enjoy. The good-guys ride their bikes fast and perform stunts, cars fly through the air and crash into things spectacularly and bad guys empty clip after clip of bullets at the Wild 7 who, like cool macho dudes, ride through it all unscathed and deliver justice.
While the script may be functional the gunfights are a lot of fun and the film is entertaining and serves as a great introduction to a new franchise. A sequel would be welcome especially if the other members of the team get to show-off more.