Bad Company

Bad Company


Reviewed by: Robert Munro

For three young school friends, life in rural Japan consists mainly of hanging out at the arcade, pinching sweeties from an old lady’s shop and trying to avoid a slap in the classroom of their disciplinarian teacher, Mr Kobayashi. Bad Company is the gentle and rather meandering tale of the boys and their attempts to write daily journals of self-criticism, describing themselves and their lives for a school project.

There’s a dusty, almost small town 80s Americana feel to the proceedings – most obviously bringing to mind films such as Stand By Me – as the boys listlessly roam the streets daring each other undertake the odd risky assignment or two in the shadow of a replica Statue of Liberty. The slowly moving camera, reliance of wide-angled landscape shots and uplifting soundtrack all complement the feeling that this is some mid-western American town and a school bully is going to pull up in a Chevy at any minute.

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Leader of the group is Tetsuya (Ryosuke Takahashi), whose doling out of almost-fatherly advice to his peers brings resentment from the more rebellious Sadatamo (Yamato Okitsu), while their chubby friend Shuji (Yuta Nakajima) seems happy to tag along. Tetsuya displays a talent for the self-critical essay writing and is selected for an upcoming cultural festival.

There’s a slow-burning, stoical rebellion bubbling gently underneath the stillness of the surface for much of the film. It appears as a probing criticism of the stifling nature of education and tradition in the Japan depicted. The teacher’s admiration is not gained by the essays written and the honesty involved, but only when a self-sacrificing punishment of a 20km run is completed – with the pupil face down in the dirt. The level of self-effacement and sacrifice in Japanese culture has long been a complex social issue – one which the film does not shy away from.

The film continues to delicately explores the differing paths beginning to lie ahead of friends Sadatamo and Tetsuya. While Tetsuya’s parents display their pride in the success of his essay, Sadatamo’s refusal to write anything for class soon starts the splintering of their friendship. As the film draws near its close and the differing nature of the three friends is increasingly tested, tragedy unexpectedly strikes to raise the film to an entirely different and more shocking level of engagement.

Reviewed on: 28 Feb 2012
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A teenager is caught between his desire to rebel and his desire to please his father.

Director: Tomoyuki Furumaya

Writer: Tomoyuki Furumaya

Starring: Yamato Okitsu, Ryosuke Takahashi, Yuta Nakajima, Ken Mitsuishi, Asako Yashiro, Mikio Shimizu

Year: 2001

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: Japan

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