Isao Yukisada’s GO [5/10]

Go is, we’re constantly being reminded, a love story. So claims our narrator, troubled high-school kid Sugihara (Yosuke Kubozuka), as he fills us in on his daily struggles with his teachers, his parents and his mates while embarking on a tentative romance with Sakurai (Kou Shibasaki). Sugihara feels like a square peg because of his mixed ancestry – while his mother is Japanese, his aggressive father (Tsutomu Yamazaki) is North Korean. Keen to train his son in the pugilistic arts, dad regularly subjects his lad to merciless beatings – scenes which Yukisada plays mostly for laughs.

For the first hour, Go is an engagingly kinetic blend of Trainspotting and Volcano High as Sugihara’s voiceover propels us through his various problems and introduces us to his family and friends, including the swaggeringly scene-stealing Tawake (Taro Yamamoto, Kawada from Battle Royale). The film is quite clearly aimed at hitting the bullseye at the lucrative teen-oriented Japanese box-office, intending to exert equal appeal to both sexes: boxing, violence, and general kick-ass rebelliousness for the boys, and plenty of romance and cool-looking, intriguingly-coiffed young lads for the girls. It didn’t work, however  – Go failed to live up to commercial expectations at home. And for non-teenage or foreign audiences, two hours really is stretching things for this kind of material: the pace noticeably slackens in the second half as the focus narrows to Sugihara and Sakurai ’s budding relationship, with several dialogue scenes where you could quite comfortably drive a bus through the pauses.

Neil Young
13th September, 2002
(seen 22nd August, Cameo Edinburgh – Edinburgh Film Festival)
For all the reviews from the 2002 Edinburgh Film Festival click here.
GO5/10 : Japan 2001 : Isao Yukisada : 122 mins