Into the Sun
starring Steven Seagal, Matthew Davis, Takao Osawa, Eddie George, William Atherton, Juliette Marquis and Kanako Yamaguchi as Nayako
written by Steven Seagal, Joe Halpin and Trevor Miller
directed by mink
This is a typically mediocre Stevan Seagal production. Many would call it bad outright. I waited a long time for this film to come out on DVD or video precisely because when Steven Seagal filmed it in Tokyolast year one of my friends was on the staff. So when I rented the DVD and brought it home the very first thing I did was to go to the credits at the end to read, “Dialogue coach for Ms. Yamaguchi, Chris Kurihara-Dixon.” That’s my friend - teacher, writer, actor, singer-song writer, vegan, Earthling. Please check out his band, Edward’s Operation, at edwardsoperation.com. I could fill this page with anecdotes of how Chris got involved in the film (by extreme coincidence) and spent a week-to-ten-days hanging out with Seagal in his limousine, in his hotel room, and on the set. But then I would have to re-name this The Dixon Report, or something.
In this film, Seagal is an American intelligence agency stringer living in Tokyo (where he was raised). He is drafted/blackmailed into investigating a collaboration of Chinese Tong gangs in Japanwith the traditional Japanese mafia, the Yakuza. The collaboration is aimed at wresting control of the Yakuza away from its aging founding fathers, and controlling the immensely profitable drug trade from Southeast Asia. It is structured like a typical behind-the-scenes Japanese power struggle, but it spills over into violence in the Tokyo streets - which, although a more common occurrence these days, is still a rarity here.
One of the early victims of this violence in the first few scenes, is the Governor of Tokyo who is assassinated shortly after giving an anti-foreigner speech. This is a common occurrence by Japanese politicians and by the real life right-wing nationalist Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, especially. Police and politicians here regularly play the foreign scare card, and the Japanese media are so tame they don’t dispute it. I can’t help but think that the movie’s governor character was based on the real Ishihara. In truth, who would not like to see Governor Ishihara removed from all of our lives, and in just such a manner if it has to be?
But that opening violence has nothing to do with the rest of the story, which is a love story between Travis (Seagal) and actress Kanako Yamaguchi, coached by my friend Chris to speak in English as Nayako, a nightclub operator. Like a manga comic book, the hyped-up superviolence of the movie has nothing at all to do with the reality of Japanese crime. Handguns are rare here. Yes, handguns are occasionally used in crime - usually by the Yakuza, leaving the police with the obvious set of usual suspects. (In fact, since many Yakuza gangs have community offices bearing marquees with messages like, “Yamaguchi Gang Office,” the police always know exactly where to go to ask questions.) Japanese culture has long revered its famed samurai swords and the majority of murderous violence here continues to be perpetrated by blades - usually the kitchen variety. So I did not like the obvious unreality of the bad guys.
What I did enjoy was seeing on film places that I know firsthand. The same feeling occurred in films like Lost in Translation (Bill Murray and Scarlet Johanson), Black Rain (Michael Douglas and Andy Garcia) and You Only Live Twice (Sean Connery as James Bond). I like seeing Tokyoportrayed on film as a serious big city that confuses and defeats the visiting, intruding foreigners
who try to navigate it, and I get a thrill when I recognize streets, intersections, and individual buildings. I don’t like it when I see or hear factual errors involving places that I know firsthand. For example, to consult with his Tongacquaintances Travis visits Tokyo’sChinatown. The problem is that Tokyodoesn’t have a Chinatown. Yokohama has, which is where Seagal filmed his Chinatown segment. But American audiences don’t know it and don’t care.
I think Steven Seagal can replace Clint Eastwood as title holder for the Best Squint in Hollywood. It’s part of his Tough Guy affectation. There should be an Academy Award for Best Squint.