Moon Child Movie Review

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If you're a 14-year-old Japanese girl, Moon Child will be without a doubt the best movie you've ever seen. But even if you're not, this teenage yakuza vampire thriller/melodrama starring two of Japan's dreamiest androgynous male pop stars has enough going for it to hold your interest. As a window into current Japanese pop culture, it can't be beat.

We find ourselves in an "Asian special economic zone" called Mallepa, a teeming city-state where for some unexplained reason, the Japanese population has been marginalized and turned into refugees and criminals. The year is 2014.

A group of orphaned kids led by Sho (Gackt Camui) and his brother Shinji (Susumu Terajima) have just stolen a briefcase full of money when the hoods they stole it from come in hot pursuit, guns blazing. Luckily, the boys find themselves protected by the mysterious Kei (Hyde), a bum they've been helping out and who, they now discover, has the power to fly and dodge bullets. After the gunmen are killed, Sho and Shinji are surprised to see Kei sucking blood from the corpses. Oh, he's a vampire. Well that explains the superpowers. Kei soon signs on as the gang's secret weapon though he's only available for work at night or on cloudy days.

Ten years later, Sho has grown up into a terribly stylish gangster with a beaded ponytail, expensive sunglasses, and eight huge guns that rest in holsters attached to his tight leather pants. Kei the vampire hasn't aged a bit, of course, but he's increasingly troubled by the "curse" of his vampire existence. Living off of the death of others bums him out royally.

Setting out to steal from yet another gang, Sho and Kei run into Son (Wang Leehom), an equally good-looking freelance Chinese gangster with whom they soon join forces. Mix in Yi-Che (Zeny Kwok), Son's pretty but mute sister, and you've got a photogenic gang, complete with a built-in love triangle.

But after a few more years pass, things are complicated. Kei, who has disappeared, turns up in prison, condemned to execution for being a vampire. He's happy to go and suggests that the cops simply leave him outside in the sun. Sho has married Yi-Che, but her brother Son has joined up with an ultra-violent Chinese gang that's at war with Sho's crew. You can be sure that the brothers-in-law will engage in a five-minute firefight that burns up more ammo than a typical ten-minute John Woo firefight. You can also be sure that Kei will suddenly show up and use the last bits of his vampire power to try to make everything turn out alright among the old friends. Many pairs of expensive leather pants will be ruined in the ensuing mayhem, but the hairstyles will remain just-so, and no one's blue contact lenses will fall out.

Hong Kong cinema is full of throwaway movies starring the latest pop idols, and Japan has followed suit here, but let's give Gackt and Hyde some props. They act credibly, they fight with style, they shoot many many bullets, and they even provide songs for the soundtrack. In short, they work a hell of a lot harder than Justin Timberlake probably would under the same circumstances, and there's no way that Justin would go along with the homoerotic subtext that comes straight from the racy boy-on-boy "yaoi" comics so popular with Japanese girls. When Sho and Kei are parked in a cute white convertible by the beach on a moonlit night sharing their hopes and dreams, Moon Child looks a lot more like a love story than a shoot-'em-up thriller.

Moon river, wider than a mile.

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Moon Child Rating

" Weak "

Rating: NR, 2003

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