April 11, 2022

CABLE | 'Tokyo Vice' Investigates the Ghosts of Japan

"A man without enemies is no man at all."
Ansel Elgort Hideaki Itō  J.T. Rogers Jake Adelstein Michael Mann | Tokyo Vice
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Tony Award-winning New York playwright J.T. Rogers adapts the memoir Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan written by his childhood friend, American expatriate journalist Jake Adelstein, chronicling his experiences as a non-Japanese crime reporter covering the Yakuza in the 1990s. Tokyo Vice alternates between being a captivating investigative journalism procedural and a layered organized crime drama about the ghosts of Japanese society.

Starring Ansel Elgort and Ken Watanabe as a fictionalized version of Adelstein and a composite character of an older detective who mentored him, we follow the native Missourian's struggle to understand Japanese culture in order to properly report on its crimes. Elgort's tall, lanky stature stands out as Watanabe's measured gruffy weariness anchors the moody, cigarette-filled atmosphere of violent crime with polite rituals found in everyday Japanese life.

Rounding out the ensemble cast, Rachel Keller, Rinko Kikuchi, and Show Kasamatsu co-star as very intriguing supporting characters with their own shadowy paths as everyone seems to have a hidden past they're escaping. Veteran filmmaker Michael Mann (an executive producer) stylishly directs the neon-soaked pilot with a vivid eye highlighting the contrasting bright lights and dark shadows of the streets of Tokyo.

There's a seductive insider vs. outsider's gaze to the inner workings of Tokyo Vice where our characters adapt to unfamiliar yet inviting situations in order to seek the truth on their terms. How the series summarizes the city as an escape and sanctuary for both native misfits and curious foreigners sheds light on what makes Tokyo so simultaneously attractive yet definitively unknowable.

Tokyo Vice's eight-episode first season is available to stream weekly on Crave in Canada (and on HBO Max in the U.S.).

More | YVArcade / AV Club / Indiewire / Polygon

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