It is hard not to think that when Sabu set about writing, and eventually getting in the chair for, Mr. Long, he hadn’t just got up from watching Refn’s Drive for the umpteenth time. So, is this the Eastern take of an already much-loved film that just must be watched? Is it even able to bring something original? Well, maybe – and maybe not.
Mr. Long draws some huge parallels with the cult 2011 film. There are slow-moving ultra-violent scenes set to heavy bass music, there is a sole and stoic male protagonist in the form of Long (played by Chen Chang), who says almost nothing for the whole film (though whom, from the subtlest facial nuances and half-formed words, you feel you know intimately), and there is the broken family with which said lead shows a silent, compassionate urge to fix.
The comparisons probably stop there however, and in many ways not for the better. Although the film lays its table trying to tell the sad and distressing story of gang culture and power in Japan, it suffers from an oddly-balanced structure which flips from past to present, from scene to setting and character to character with an apparent arbitrariness.
Compounding this structural commotion is a jarring tonal confusion, with the film apparently trying to capture the black comedy typical of the director’s style – with slapstick gags, graphic ultra-violence, and some sexual assault, drug abuse and a kid playing baseball for good measure.
Mr. Long races out of the traps from the starting pistol, rushing to tell us the story of those that struggle beneath the urban threshold, and it does this – but it finishes while still chewing everything it tried to bite off.
CAST: Chen Chang, Sho Aoyagi, Yiti Yao, Runyin Bai, Masashi Arifuku
SYNOPSIS: Professional hitman Long flees after a job goes awry, taking refuge in a small town where he soon befriends the locals and begins to build himself a quieter, more peaceful life.[Trailer forthcoming]