Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on October 2009

(c) 福本伸行・講談社 / 2009「カイジ」製作委員会

(c) 福本伸行・講談社 / 2009「カイジ」製作委員会


Despite the fact that this film is full of laughable overacting and weighted down with an overwrought scenario (the main character spends a full 30 minutes on a beam between two skyscrapers), there is a fascinating (perhaps unintentional) critique of materialist society here. Kaiji Ito (Tetsuya Fujiwara) is a lonely freeta working at a local conbini. When loan sharks demand he pay an outrageous sum to make good on a friend’s debt that Kaiji co-signed years before, he is forced onto a cruise ship where people gamble for their lives. After losing, he must toil as a slave laborer in a mine. Kaiji risks all to escape by crossing aforementioned beam hundreds of feet up in the air. All this is done for the amusement of a monied elite who are behind the entire operation. The tension between a downtrodden underclass and a privileged ruling class provides what would otherwise be a ridiculous film some interesting subtext. All in all, Kaiji is a thought-provoking work, even if the script is, ironically, totally commercial. (129 min)