Violent biker gangs clash with fascists in this high-octane action film. When the leader of the Maboroshi biker group, Ken (Koji Nanjo), decides to leave to be with his girlfriend Noriko (Michiko Kitahara), his position is taken up by the fiery Jin (Tatsuo Yamada). Jin soon finds himself in a struggle against the rival Dokuro gang, who see Ken’s retirement as a chance to gain ground. Jin is later recruited by Takeshi (Shigeru Izumiya), another former leader, to join his ultra-nationalist group, campaigning for the youth to join their cause. Chaos ensues as the Maboroshi and Dokuro gangs fight amongst each other, with kidnap, drug use, violent brawls, and a nihilistic punk-rock attitude.

Written and directed by Sogo Ishii as a graduation project, “Crazy Thunder Road” is a film that perfectly captures the attitude and atmosphere of the subculture of biker gangs. The world of the film emerges fully formed, with hideouts, gang affiliations and rivalries, and the interpersonal relationships of the members having an air of believability. The plot of the film is fairly loose, with the largest part of the film driven forward by the excitement of engine-revving, high-speed chases, and street fights, all culminating in a shoot-out. Ishii’s direction keeps us close to the action, with creative camerawork putting us in the middle of the violent maelstrom of youthful masculinity. The soundtrack of rock songs underscores the sense of kineticism and an anti-authoritarian tone. The rough language, drug-use, and brutality, show a darker side of youth that remains relevant in every generation. The run-down industrial locations, graffitied squats, and brutalist architecture speak to a world that is crumbling around them, reflecting the hopeless attitude of the characters.

Ishii’s references to the ultra-nationalist wing, who recruit disaffected youngsters to their cause, is an interesting political statement. The characters are looking for something to fight for. It is a great exploration of post-adolescent masculinity, its fragility, its pride and its heart. The film depicts this rebellious phase perfectly, neither condemning or condoning the actions of its protagonists, but offering a look at what drives them.

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