Reel Baseball – Deadball (2011)

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Japan seems to enjoy making sport movies unlike any other country on earth. Not for them the drama and warm-hearted redemption stories of American sport movies (although that might be just the ones they decide to export). Thanks to Sushi Typhoon Films, we get to watch lunacy like this.

Right away, you’re plunged into the madness. Jubeh is playing catch with his father and brother, and decides to show his Dad the “Fireball” pitch, which involves him sticking his leg straight up, flying thousands of feet into the air and hurling the ball (which is on fire due to the speed, obviously) straight at his Dad. Unsurprisingly, his Dad dies because there’s no damn way he was going to catch it, so after the touching scene of blood bubbling out of his Dad’s face we race forward to Jubeh’s life at 17 – his brother Musashi has committed some unspecified horrific crimes due to the trauma; and Jubeh has become the most feared juvenile delinquent in Japan, but he only kills criminals and bad guys who the courts can’t touch.

We aren’t even close to the strangest stuff in this movie yet. Jubeh is sent to Pterodactyl Juvenile Reformatory, under the supervision of Headmistress Ishihara, the daughter of a Nazi collaborator (who is proud of his actions), and she really, really wants him to play for the Reformatory’s team in the Juvie Baseball League. The prison is like an ugly nightmare – the chef literally serves the inmates vomit; the cavity searches are extraordinarily unpleasant and graphic; Ishihara herself seems impervious to any and all damage; and so on.

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This film is hilarious (despite needing a relatively strong stomach). Jubeh phones Ishihara from the same room and punches her down the phone, smacks one of the guards in the groin with a Nazi metal plate, leaving a perfect indentation of his penis – all in the first half hour. There’s violence in this film – a lot – and even with the gallons of blood, it’s played for laughs throughout. There’s even a Family Guy-style cutaway gag at one point; and once you start noticing it, Jubeh’s smoking habit elicits plenty of laughs. Jubeh’s cellmate is very obviously a woman, despite no-one in the movie questioning her maleness (she’s even checked out by doctors at one point). Perhaps this is some cultural thing I just don’t know about?

“Grotesque” would be a better word to describe it, if you could only use one. The final “battle” of the film is Jubeh and his fellow inmates against the local women’s reform school – three of Jubeh’s team die before the end of the first inning and the plan of the “villains” is finally revealed…to be honest, it’s pretty stupid.

The announcer (lord knows where a game like this would be broadcast) is spectacularly foul-mouthed, swearing in English quite a lot too, and his sidekicks are girl-pop duo “Poo Poo”…an example of the relentlessly disgusting path this film follows. If you’ve ever wanted to see a baseball grow tentacles and eat someone, this is the film for you.

I think you’ll enjoy this one – a catalogue of performances that could politely be called over-the-top, lots of fun and lots of cartoonish violence. Weirdly, this is the second horror-comedy-baseball film from the same director and star, following 2003’s “Battlefield Baseball” which seems to have largely the same plot too. Well, why mess with success?

Rating: thumbs up

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