This is a Japanese action comedy on digital and DVD release from 25th January by Yoshihiro Nishimura, described as a “legendary director and effects artist” and renowned for his work predominantly in the horror genre, here he creates a crazy comedy alternative to the yakuza crime stories based on ramen noodles with little to no gore.
The story begins with 2 ex yakuza brothers being reunited after one of them, Tatsu, finishes a term in prison to find things are different on the outside. His brother, Ryu, is looking to put his yakuza fighting days behind him and is selling nato de coco drinks from his food truck. He has since had a message from the magical tattoo on his back, a Buddhist goddess, to start a Chinese Ramen restaurant. Tatsu is unimpressed especially with the food truck but when he gets a taste for the Ramen noodles, he suddenly sees the light and has to put his chef skills to good use to make people happy.
The idea of these violent yakuza’s starting a noodle restaurant is only the beginning of the non-stop gags and parody of Japanese films. The action swiftly breaks into a musical to really show the change in direction from the old yakuza ways. Their restaurant business takes off when they get a visit from a YouTuber (an uncanny Kim Jong-un lookalike with his sunglasses on) who gives their Tokyo Dragon restaurant sensational reviews. But it can’t last and when an old yakuza rival gang show up, the Ozawa Brothers, there is a Ramen noodle turf war hotting up.
The Ozawa brothers introduce their own YouTuber, Mimi the big eating idol with pointy ears, and boy can she eat. She starts pulling in the crowds with her amazing eating ability and her provocative pink PVC outfit, which is another saucy Carry On feature of the movie. Meanwhile there is Gizumo who is the young start-up looking for revenge on the yakuza who ruffed him up. He’s now a tech whizz with a third eye and he’s on a power crazed trip, looking to take over from the old yakuza with his own gang of enforcers wearing one-eyed face masks and going around putting the competition out of business.
There are some American influences throughout the film especially with the music, the rock n roll and it seems the Blues Brothers. The songs switch between Japanese and English and a couple of scenes make a link between languages. The first, is where Gizumo has a funny turn and starts singing in English, “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”, in an intoxicated brainwashed trance, then the next scene shows Tatsu changing the complicated Japanese lettering outside the restaurant. Put the two side by side and they show how crazy the language differences are.
The film feels part of a trend in combining traditional stories with a food focus. Samurai Gourmet (Netflix) has a similar theme of combining the old samurai story with modern times and tempting looking Japanese food. The switch for Yoshihiro Nishimura from gore to food may not last long before a return to the more popular Japanese genres he makes fun of here. This gives a great flavour of Japanese film tastes without taking itself seriously and if you can do the same you will enjoy the madcap intense noodle tasting, which is quite special to watch.
Film: Tokyo Dragon Chef
Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Stars: Yasukaze Motomiya, Yoshiyuki Yamaguchi, Hitoshi Ozawa, Kazuyoshi Ozawa, Tak Sakaguchi
Genre: Comedy / Action
Run time: 1hr 35min