Inspired by a popular manga comic book and anime series, Kaiji: The Ultimate Gambler is an action-packed thriller in the tradition of neo noir films like David Fincher’s The Game.

Unemployed gambler Kaiji Ito (played by Tatsuya Fujiwara of Battle Royale fame) is conned by an attractive debt collector into entering into a game of Rock, Scissors, Paper aboard a gambling boat with the idea of repaying his debt.

But he’s merely a pawn. A billionaire megalomaniac called Kazutaka Okada (Kei Sato) is playing his own devious game: he entices losers into gambling away their freedom to face years of forced labour in one of his company’s mines.

When Kaiji finds himself in this predicament, he refuses to follow the crowd and hatches a daring plan to escape. The only problem is, his captors – led by Okada’s right-hand man Yukio Tonegawa (Tokyo Sonata star Teruyuki Kagawa) – have a deadlier game prepared for him to play and a battle of wits ensues. Can poor Kaiji rise up against his wealthy oppressors?


This film concerns a society split by this rich-poor divide. Here, the idle elite keep a tight reign on the working class through induced consumerism: work-rest-eat-drink, and pay for the privilege. It’s a vicious circle that keeps the workers in despair until they become resigned to their fate. Luckily, Kaiji isn’t one of them.

The terrifying, death-defying situations Kaiji is put through are inventive and very exciting, and the gambling scenes really heighten the tension. Riveting stuff. I, for one, can’t wait for a sequel.

Released 26 July