Apr 16, 2013

Deadball (2011)
Director: Yudai Yamaguchi
Writers: Keita Tokaji
Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Mari Hoshino, Miho Ninagawa, and Ryosei Tayama

The Plot: Deadball focuses on a young man named Jubeh (played by Tak Sakaguchi) who has a very traumatic experience as a child. While playing catch with his father, young Jubeh throws his hardest pitch (in which he floats hundreds of feet into the air in order to build maximum momentum) and explodes his father into a bloody mess. Jubeh and his little brother Musashi try to move on, but both find it difficult to leave violence outside of their lives. Musashi becomes a delinquent, while Jubeh goes on a kill-crazy rampage that leaves 50 dead. When Jubeh is picked up by the authorities, he is sent to Pterodactyl Juvenile Reformatory in order to wait for his trial date. This juvenile detention center happens to be run by a collection of Nazis who specialize in putting together sadistic baseball games. The Nazi warden quickly attempts to lull Jubeh onto their baseball team. It takes some real convincing, but when Jubeh does eventually sign up, the type of baseball that this team will have to play is a bit outside of the MLB rule set.

The Review
Before there was the current age of Sushi Typhoon titles and the random splatter films that were inspired by The Machine Girl, there was Battlefield Baseball. Starring Tak Sakaguchi, who at this point was still floating off of the hype he had from Ryuhei Kitamura’s Versus, the film became a bit of a cult item. Showcasing a splatterific version of baseball that delivered on as many crazy ideas as could possibly be shoved into a ninety minute movie, Battlefield Baseball had its moment in the spotlight but was eventually forgotten by the many newcomers to Asian cinema. Director Yudai Yamaguchi didn’t stop there though, he went on to direct other gruesome genre titles (notably Meatball Machine and Yakuza Weapon), but it seems that Deadball is the closest we will ever see to a Battlefield Baseball sequel. Although it isn’t touted as a proper sequel, and the plot is drastically different from the previously mentioned film, both the tone of the film and the baseball-centric splatter is guaranteed to ensure many apt comparisons.

For those that are unaware, Sushi Typhoon is a production arm of Nikkatsu studio. It was essentially created in response to the overwhelming international popularity of films like The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police. Their main goal is to create low budget genre films that can be marketed towards international audiences who are willing to eat up any “quirky” Japanese splatter films that appear on the scene. Although there are exceptions, such as Sion Sono’s beautiful Cold Fish, the majority of these movies are over-the-top gory spectacles that are less concerned with being “good” and more concerned with being zany. With that said, I myself am a total mark for the majority of these films. As stupid as they may be, you can’t say they aren’t creative. Deadball is very typical of this new breed of Japanese exploitation. For those of you who are familiar with films like Samurai Princess (not Sushi Typhoon, but very similar in content) or Robo Geisha, you should know what you are getting into. If you like films of this variety, then this should be of interest to you. If not, this is not one that will change your mind.

Although baseball does play an integral part of out story, it’s really just a background feature within a plot that isn’t afraid to run all over the place. The true narrative has to deal with Jubeh and his being undercover within this very sordid reform school. It takes nearly forty minutes before any actual baseball takes place within the movie. The movie up until that point is a series of excessively rude bits and very random content. If you go into Deadball expecting to see tons of baseball-related carnage the whole way through, you’re probably going to be left scratching your head. However, it’s the little things that keep audiences coming back. This isn’t a movie with any big messages built into its framework. This is all about being shocking and being… well, stupid. I don’t think anyone involved in the movie dared to take it the tiniest bit serious, and this attitude is reflected in every facet of the film’s creation. This isn’t a sports movie, it’s a very dark and very peculiar comedy.

Deadball is essentially a collection of otherworldly ideas that have all been crammed into one film with no actual subtlety. Granted, there are a lot of films coming out of Japan that are doing this, so, that leaves one question, is there anything that separates Deadball from the rest of the pack? The answer is a definitive yes. While Deadball is no instant classic, it precisely delivers everything that this genre needs in order to reach full potential. Yamaguchi strips down all of the unnecessary attachments that these new splatter movies often have, then he delivers a raucous and offensive piece of braindead splatter cinema that does its best to entertain in any way possible. Going through the movie and picking out every ridiculous scene is too difficult a task because almost every shot in the movie contains something preposterous. This movie has it all. Robots, Nazis, robot Nazis, a girl who is for no-real-reason cast as a young boy, a J-Pop idol group named “poo poo,” a school named St. Black Dahlia High, a school named Pterodactyl Juvenile Reformatory, tons of gore, and there’s even a spoof of James Cameron’s Avatar that comes from out of nowhere. While the humor here may not be witty, if you share a similar goofy sensibility, there is a LOT of fun to be had.

The Conclusion
Although I feel somewhat guilty giving the movie as high of a rating as I am, I can’t deny on my own feelings. Deadball is a title that I see myself revisiting multiple times in the future. Not because it is a great piece of cinema, but solely due to the fun that it provides. This is goofy entertainment in its most outrageous form, turn off your expectations and enjoy the ride. It gets a very solid four out of five.