Utilizing a lovers-on-the-lam framework to shoot off some of his trademark techno-brat effects, Takashi Miike’s City of Lost Souls is as morose and disturbing as it is infused with a sense of the madcap. Japanese-Brazilian Mario (played with camera-mugging precociousness by Teah) and his lover Kai (Michele Reis) are planning an escape to anyplace that isn’t Tokyo. Trouble is that Chinese mob boss Ko (the silky, genderless Mitsuhiro Oikawa) is nursing a monster crush on Kai; he even has hand-painted doll toys representing her strewn about his cave hideout. So, of course, Mario and Kai figure that the best way to score the mother lode of cash needed to appease their piggish illicit travel agent is to double-cross Ko and Fushimi (Koji Kikkawa), the yazuka warlord he’s doing business with. Naturally, their plans derail and Miike reflects the confusion of their plight with sideshow set pieces like the Matrix-inspired cockfight and midget toilet humor. Miike stirs an uneasy blend between the histrionic and the sedate (every scene Ko appears in revolves around his hurricane-eye concentration), and the wackiness of many earlier scenes sets up for an emotional finale that is, in reality, the film’s ultimatum for misunderstood puppy love.
Though it can't compare with the spotless job on the companion DVD Chimera released for Miike's offbeat The Happiness of the Katakuris, City of Lost Souls is also admittedly a much less colorful film. The dank cinematography is faithfully represented on a transfer that emphasizes the grimy street life depicted in the film. Presented in a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, the Japanese (and Portuguese) soundtrack isn't as overtly enveloping as other actioneers on the market, but is still playful when complimenting the barrage of filter effects and stutter-cuts that punctuate the film. It must be noted that either the English subtitles are a horrible translation with butchered syntax or Ichiro Ryu's dialogue is an extreme parody of obtuse tough-guy quips.
Again, the goodies presented by Chimera pale next to the treasure trove they compiled for Katakuris. Most sadly, there is no commentary from Miike, nor are there interviews with cast members. A six-minute making-of segment is also included but is no different than other behind-the-scenes video clips hastily stitched together. There are a multitude of theatrical trailers, for City of Lost Souls and otherwise. And, allowing the extra features section to escape from being a total waste, there is a cheeky "Escape from Tokyo" multiple-choice quiz game. The liner notes aren't bad either.
Moody yet mischievous, this multicultural mafia mash-up might make a mad Miike admirer of you.