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Japan - 50 years old
Alive and kicking
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Don't expect a mandatory/lazy mid-trilogy film, the second entry in the High & Low series feels like Kubo was gunning to make his ultimate masterpiece. The energy levels in this film are absolute madness. The pacing is unparalleled, the fights are bonkers and the styling so bold that two hours later I couldn't help but feel completely overwhelmed. Exhausting, but impressive.

The action is superb, the styling is just insane and the pacing is pleasantly fast, making this by far the flashiest and boldest high school brawler around.

Compared to the first two films, the third and final entry in the High & Low casino trilogy is a bit more serious. The story arc finally comes to an end and while not as energetic or boundary pushing as the earlier films, it's still a very worthy and satisfying finale to one of the more epic film series in recent history.

The latest in Shigeaki Kubo's High & Low series. Availability is a real problem here, with several installments lacking international distribution, but people familiar with the Japanese high school brawler won't have too much trouble finding their way. Big gangs of colorful characters, lots of posing, some crazy fights and a little drama to glue everything together. I have a soft spot for this niche and Kubo (who is on his fifth film now) has proven to have mastered the genre.

Road to High & Low

2016 / 95m - Japan
Road to High & Low poster

A feature-length demo tape for Kubo and his crew. It's a full-blown introduction into the High & Low franchise that highlights all the gangs and factions, while setting the stage for the main trilogy. It's also a playground for Kubo to get the vibe just right and a warming up for the actors to get a feel for their characters.

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SWORD is a group of five gangs that hold each other in check. They quarrel and fight, but there's never one gang strong enough to rise above the rest. There is one Yakuza family that thinks it can outsmart the SWORD alliance and to do that, they infiltrate the gangs and try to play them against each other.

Watching this film after the main trilogy is a bit weird, but it does underline the smarts of this pilot-like approach. While the potential is clearly here and there's already a lot to enjoy, it doesn't come close to the polish, vitality and joy of what would become the main course of the High & Low franchise. A fun introduction, but not as good as the real thing.