There are a lot of reasons to love this movie. The first is because this is the type of movie that would never get made in America, at least not without some serious revisions. Second, I wish my high school was like this. Sure, it was a big sausage fest, but it certainly would be fun.
Having grown up thinking that John Hughes films were the best possible outcome for high school, and seeing the current high school experience captured as a Disney musical or stupid, forgettable, comedies-Crows Zero gives a new perspective on the "coolest possible" high school experience.
Crows Zero is about the new guy in town trying to get to the top of his high school class. But instead of getting good grades or being the quarterback with the cheerleader girlfriend, it's all about who can mobilize the best student army and pound the snot out of everyone else. But, being a Takashi Miike film (Western Django, Ichi, Izo, DOA), it's gonna be more than a fistfight.
Crows is based on a multi-million selling manga. It basically takes all the conflicts and angst that you find in high school and externalizes them. Instead of stupid pranks or getting stuffed in a garbage can or trying to make the best grades or trying to get a varsity letter, it all comes down to how well you can brawl. The "School of Crows" is known for being the toughest school in Japan, And if you can survive, better yet, rise to the top, you can be whatever you want.
It's a cool premise. One that could quickly degenerate into an adolescent orgy of senseless violence or could just come off very cheesy. But Miike brings depth to the characters. Despite everyone dressing in black, they all have their own distinctive styles (and it looks cool as hell). And everyone broods really well. I mean, it's an old-school James Dean, Brando-kind of brood. Nowadays our emo generation in the US tries to brood, but it's just pouting and whining. In Miike's hands it's sylistic and effective and makes you want to adopt a perma-scowl next time you leave the house.
Although the main character's run at the top is the primary story, there's a few side-stories involving peripheral characters that keep the movie from being 2-dimensional and shallow. You get a sense of the kind of world where this story could take place, and the types of people that inhabit it (hint: it's a pretty cool world).
Character, story, depth, and the action is great. No showy choreography here, everything is a straight-up brawl. Think 'Fight Club' turned up to 11, fueled by out-of-control teenage testosterone. Every time a fist connects with a face, you feel it. The sound and camerawork make every punch and kick feel epic. Every hit counts. And everything is captured in the very-stylistic Miike way.
So who's gonna like this movie? The anime and manga crowd should dig it. it definitely keeps its feel as a manga-made-real. Those who were into Battle Royale and the contemporary, Japanese, teenage, ultraviolence. I don't think this film is mature enough to appeal to the drama audience, despite having some fantastic characters and story elements. Die-hard martial arts fans should probably pass. If you like that cool asian style with some hardcore brawling action, all done by a top-notch production team and cast, equalling a movie that oozes nonchalant cool without forgetting to be fun, you'll be a 'Crows' fan, guaranteed.