All Night Long
- Original title
- All Night Long
- Japanese title
- Running time
- 90 minutes
- 1 August 2001
by Tom Mes
Its reputation for graphic, unflinching violence may be second only to the infamous Guinea Pig series, but the first in Katsuya Matsumura's All Night Long trilogy is not quite the bloodbath one might expect. The gross-outs are restricted to two scenes: one which serves as the starting point to the story and one as its finale. Though suitably blood-drenched, neither is as disturbing as the atmosphere Matsumura creates for his characters. The three teenagers who form the center of this story live in a world of cold concrete and lifeless metal. A world of anonymous high-rise buildings surrounded by factories, where the thunderous aeroplanes pass overhead incessantly. It's the perfect environment for a study into the effects of urban alienation. Too bad the movie fails to live up to this promise.
Three teenagers, each from different backgrounds, are united by fate when a high school girl is stabbed before their eyes by a disturbed salaryman. The event leaves its mark on all three of them and they seek solace in each other's presence. Bizarrely, that same night they let off some steam by racing a car at high speed across the highway, then decide that what their traumatised little minds need is a party. With women. So out they go to find a partner. Not all of them are lucky. One finds his date stolen by a semi-retarded hulking classmate before vomiting all over the girl's dress, while another hooks up with a sports car-driving militant feminist who chains him to a fence with his pants on his ankles.
Only the third boy has any luck. But the romance that blossoms between him and his new love is rudely disturbed by a gang of neighbourhood thugs, who beat him up and rape and torture the girl. Beaten and dishevelled, he turns to his two disillusioned friends for help and the three decide to teach the gang a lesson, in a grim finale in which their violent selves are given free reign. When the massacre is over, only one of them is left standing: the nerdy, hitherto innocent Shinji. But as the grin on his face indicates, Shinji's innocence has vanished to make way for more disturbing instincts.
The message is clear: violence lurks in all of us and it takes very little to bring it to the surface. But All Night Long is no Straw Dogs and Matsumura is no Peckinpah. Mediocre or just plain bad acting, dubious or downright unconvincing character motivations, unintentionally funny scenes and characters, and above all a jarringly sensationalist approach to the violence drain the film of much of its impact. There are interesting ideas and observations, from the aforementioned atmospheric locale to details like the dismissal of a child's abilities on account of a single bad grade. Matsumura sadly lacks the ability to make them work. As social criticism it's too clumsily constructed. As a portrait of humanity's dark instincts it's too shoddily motivated. Even as a violent horror film it falls short due to its lack of gore. All Night Long fails on all accounts.