Party 7 was the second full-length feature film release for Katsuhito Ishii, following the success of Shark Skin Man & Peach Hip Girl. It's a film that helped Ishii hone his skills, combining witty yet pointless dialogues with absurd and outlandish events and characters. The result is pretty crazy, a zany film delivered with a near-deadpan sense of humor that is sure to alienate a good portion of its viewers.
There are many reasons why someone seeks out a film. A cool poster, a nifty trailer, peer pressure, commercial buzz, or simply the name of the director pulling you towards the film. I first watched Party 7 because I noticed it featured a character named Captain Banana. How bad can a film like that truly be? That and the fact that the opening credits are animated by Takeshi Koike (Redline), one of the most gifted animators/directors working in the field of animation today (actual directing credits for the opening sequence go to Peter Chung though).
Party 7 is a film split into two separate universes which only collide momentarily near the end of the film. While these two universes are only a window apart from each other, the tone and feel of both segments are quite different. The film alternates between them quite often, as a result, the comedy in both segments is saved from outliving its welcome, allowing the film to remain fresh throughout while avoiding a lagging middle part.
The first story is a typical Yakuza heist. One of the low-ranking yakuza stole a pile of cash and is now being hunted by the chief in command. To make things worse, his ex-girlfriend is tailing him for money too. The whole bunch of them end up in a hotel room where they try to figure out who gets what. What they don't know is that they are being watched by two perverts from behind a wall, descendants of a clan of peepers who built the hotel especially for spying on their guests.
Visually Party 7 is a pretty slick film. Ishii doesn't experiment too much but manages to keep an interesting level of visual trickery. While the peeping room looks pretty amazing, the hotel room is a little dull in comparison. Luckily the funky costumes help to brighten up the setting. There are some cool slomo's (the moment when Gashuin barges into the room) and some nifty camera work, making it a pretty pleasurable experience to watch overall.
The soundtrack is pretty much on par with the visuals. Not overly great or exciting, but it does contain a couple of fun and interesting tracks that help to establish and maintain the atmosphere. For a more subdued film like this, the soundtrack may be a little over the top (lots of DNB-inspired dance-like music that's quite tap-worthy), but in the end, it works well and it gives the film that extra bit of cool.
Party 7 is a film that relies heavily on humor, so it's a good thing Ishii gathered a slew of superb actors to make sure the elongated dialogues and scenes work out. It's one of those rare films that feature both Tadanobu Asano and Masatoshi Nagase, two of my absolute favorite Japanese actors. They both do a great job and each of them fuels one of the respective universes. They get help from a strong secondary cast (Morishita Ren Osugi, Kobayashi), and of course, the film features hors category actor Gashuin in a somewhat small yet hilarious role. Extra special praise goes to Yoshio Harada who shines as Captain Banana, certainly one of the more memorable characters I've ever come across.
While deadpan isn't really the right word to describe the flavor of humor in Party 7, it sure is a more muted and subdued style when contrasted with its weird and freaky characters. It's not nearly as insane or over the top as you'd expect based on the screenshots or trailer, but that doesn't make it any less fun. All of this leads to a hilarious finale where Ishii finally brings his two universes together, for maximum comedic effect.
Party 7 is a weird mix of slightly perverted comedy and more typical crime/comedy antics, shaped by a range of weird characters and their absurd, lingering dialogues (make sure to sit through the end credits). The film looks good, sounds great, sports an incredible opening animation sequence, and boasts a list of superb actors. What more could you wish for in a Japanese comedy? The comedy is a little off-center though, so even if you appreciated Ishii's Cha No Aji you aren't fully guaranteed that Party 7 will suit your needs. Then again, Party 7 has plenty to offer, so if you're a Katsuhito Ishii fan you owe it to yourself to at least give the film a fair chance.