The big day is here! The newest installment of HiGH&LOW the Worst has shown in theaters. I went during the second week of screening in my area. Given my less then generous review of the prior 2019 film, and how bloated with cameos and new additions this newest installment has I went in with very low expectations.
Cross by no means blew me away, but it has it’s charm and moments.
HiGH&LOW THE WORST Cross‘s (Cross) story is about Oya High School from the original HiGH&LOW, and Senomon Technical School nearby. The head of Senomon, Amagai Kohei (Miyama Ryoki) has built a three school alliance with Kamasaka High School and Ebara Commerical High School. Their goal is take down Oya High School and their head Hanaoka Fujio (Kawamura Kazuma). Meanwhile Fujio ends up in his own trouble as he wanders over to challenge Suzuran’s leader, Lao (Daichi Mikami) due to his reputation. Tsukasa (Yoshino Hokuto) warns Fujio that being the head of the school is much more then just fighting, and that Senomon is on the move. And then, Oya High School is suddenly attacked. Fujio’s caught between his loyalties, lack of forethought and being a leader. The battle to decide the true top of the school’s begins.
Now this plot written and read sounds impressive. There’s room for a lot of potential character growth and conflict to be introduced and explored here. The difference between how Kohei goes about things, then Fujio – that alone has a lot of room for social commentary about wealth, personal connections, mutual respect verses respect born of fear, etc. But let me be clear; this story firmly takes place in the manga-verse of Worst and Crows by Takahashi Hiroshi. Any nuance that might have been offered on these issues should it have been more firmly in the HiGH&LOW universe, is mostly a quick aside and not particularly emphasized.
Cross is largely just another yankee movie with a higher budget and more star power to it then it’s predecessors. Yankee, for anyone not in the know, being the slang term for a juvenile delinquent in Japan with an affiliation to a gang, or in this case a school. Much like the stereotyped nature of these yankees (dumb and just want to fight), there isn’t exactly a ton of substance in Cross. It’s a beat ’em up and bond movie. It works because there’s no focus on commentary but on how many fights look super fucken cool and how hot some actors look with strategically placed blood spatter. The plot is also super thin and very much ham fisted to get as many new and marketable names into the franchise as possible. It gets points for being the only yankee movie I’ve seen advertised this year in a dying genre. But at the same time, Cross‘s production team probably should have done a bit more market research on this one.
All that being said, at face value, Cross is a very well produced and modern looking yankee film.
I can say that the schools they used for this film were really well stylized. Suzuran where Lao is the leader has a much darker, more subdued sense of violence in comparison to the other schools withe black/white/grey palette. In comparison, Senomon’s red palette is dripping with the blood lust and ambition of their newly appointed leader has to go out and crush some skulls. Even Oya High’s design, with it’s blue, white and grey palette plus it’s unique ‘zones’ of characters united under Fujio work together to show how each school presented itself.
The fight scenes, arguably the single most important part of any HiGH&LOW franchise, and for any yankee film worth it’s salt look and feel great. Suzuran’s fights are very convincing that you’re seeing your favorite actor getting into a genuine fight with real stakes. Senonmon and the Senonmon affiliates radiate their drive is inherently different from Oya High, and it shows in how the characters interact and eventually fight. There’s a handful of moments where the hits don’t quite connection, or the weight of the blow doesn’t quite match what it was suppose to do. But these didn’t really tank my enjoyment of any particular battle. I only felt a little cheated since we never really get to see Fujinn, i.e. Zin from the Rampage fight. Those fights I’m assuming were cut due to timing and pacing. Overall, the fight scenes are well choreographed and guaranteed to get your heart racing.
Coupled with this, is the leveling up of the stunt work. There are some genuinely impressive looking stunts that more then one member of the cast get into at different points. I am giving some major kudos to Yoshino Hokuto as Tsukasa in this round. The stuff Tsukasa was subjected to on screen is no joke. I’m sure more then one scene used a stunt double or two, but it was done in a way I couldn’t easily tell and I’m glad for it.
Also anyone familiar with HiGH&LOW knows that that musical numbers are off the charts. “The Power” by The Rampage is the main theme, but “Ride or Die” by MA55IVE The Rampage, “Warriors” by Psychic Fever, “We Never Die” by Ballistik Boyz are all bangers as well. Of course “Wings” the collaboration track between Kazuma and Hokuto of the Rampage, Yuta of NCT 127, and BE:FIRST’s Miyama Ryoki is sure to please.
(Especially for Yuta stans since apparently he gets more line in this collab then any of the NCT songs, allegedly?) The soundtrack is impressive, but the sound design is the icing on the cake. There’s the ambient noises that build suspense that only bursts into critical rates when the character finally appears on screen. The attention to these humble details, especially when you hear it in surround sound like I did was impressive.
So now let’s get into what most people are looking for, how did all the new additions do in Cross?
My general opinion is that they were just fine I guess. Cross didn’t really write in character motivations for most of the newbies, so they’re mostly color-coded yankee boy stereotypes. Kimura Keito and Yagi Yusei who are part of Suzuran didn’t have a ton of lines, were relatively minor characters in the grand scheme, but had some good fight scenes. Hori Natsuki was fine, oddly added to Housen’s line-up, but didn’t do much other then be a mcguffin for lore and background to be re-hashed to. His fight scenes were limited but solid. Zin, Fujiwara Itsuki and Hasegawa Makoto’s characters could have been interesting but didn’t really have much to add aside from a line or two. Makoto getting a small leg up on the other members regarding dialogue since he did have an interesting almost exchange with Suzaki Ryo (Nakamoto Yuta). Itsuki getting bonus points since he had a pretty serious fight against Fujio that certainly kept my eyes glued to the screen.
As for Kawamura Kazuma as Fujio this was his strongest showing so far. It’s clear he’s developed more screen presence, but occasionally got crowded out by stronger actors. He worked off the rest of cast old and new, well enough. I do still struggle if this is out of genuine talent as an actor, or the fact the majority of the new cast are LDH talents. I digress. I did really like his exchanges with Tsukasa (Yoshino Hokuto). You can tell as characters, and actors both of them have come a long way. Also, he seems to have worked a lot more on having convincing high choreography, and dipped his toe into some stunt work here.
As for Yoshino Hokuto, I give a big round of applause since his screen presence has gone up a TON since his debut in this franchise. He really managed to finally get the camera on him through his own power, verses just literal camera work. It bears repeating, he stepped up a lot in terms of stunts and fight choreographies this time around. Something I did not anticipate, but nonetheless again I am truly impressed by is his off camera…. dialogue. Those were not easy lines to deliver, but were convincing and as unnerving that that needed to be.
In regards to Nakamoto Yuta as Suzaki Ryo… this role didn’t do him a lot of favors. He did just fine for it being his first role, and being inexperienced. But it was not particularly impressive by any means. This was not entirely to be blamed on Yuta’s inexperience, but how he was directed/coached, plus how Ryo’s character was written. The first 30-ish minutes of the film where he’s on screen, Ryo barely talks or interacts with anyone or anything around him. He’s just kinda there, and it’s awkward. It eventually makes sense in full context of his character, and Ryo’s relationship with Kohei in particular. But this is introduced a bit too late, and there were ways to make it more natural that the director didn’t do. His fight choreography was on par with everyone else. But some of the editing choices took a lot the impact out of them. Not a bad performance, but not one that put him on my radar.
Now Miyama Ryoki from BE:FIRST’s line up on the other hand as Amagai Kyohei? There’s some major potential there, depending on how it’s developed. He genuinely made a great antagonist, leaning in to the more dastardly elements of Kyohei. The way his eyes would go into the true impudent child/manic delivering more then one low blows was impressive. How he carried himself and filled the screen was impressive, up there with Tsukasa and Fujio really. Being honest, this is partly due to his character having more substance and motivations written and explored in comparison to the new of the new cast. It was still a stellar performance for what Cross is. He’s on my radar, but not someone who I feel the urge to follow closely.
When it comes down to it, I wrote this earlier HiGH&LOW the Worst Cross is a very well produced and modern looking yankee movie. It’s not exactly a popping genre and not something I’d go out of my way to recommend, but it is enjoyable if you want to watch a bunch of attractive dudes beat the shit out of each other because beat ’em and bond dynamics.
As a post note, since I couldn’t figure out how or where to slide this in elsewhere. For fans of HiGH&LOW this is pretty far removed from the original at this point and won’t affect the original story in anyway. Oya High School should honestly just be written into Takahashi’s manga-verse to make it easier on everyone. And honestly, HiGH&LOW just seems to be a marketing tactic/ brand recognition thing at this point. Take that as you will.
Thanks for the review! At least I have an idea what to expect now. Based on this review, I take it you prefer this to the Worst? (the one in 2019)
Hokuto’s really grown as an actor. I didn’t like Tokyo Semienjo but I’m enjoying his role in Maho no Rinobe
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I honestly think I went too hard on the 2019 in retrospect, but overall I do think this 2022 film is better structured narratively (what little there is).
I haven’t seen Maho no Rinobe yet, but I am seriously proud of him too. He’s shown so much growth!
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