5. Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji – This is a live action adaptation of one of the best anime series I have ever seen. The anime series is set in the nineteen-nineties during the time of the great Recession in Japan, a time in which many young men found it difficult to gain traction in Japanese society. The story arcs revolve around a young man in a tight financial situation who attempts to eliminate his debt by gambling, sometimes against overwhelming odds. The anime series has a very retro feel to it, and the soundtrack is pure late eighties, early nineties Japanese punk; Blue Hearts, Cigarette Man, Street Beats, etc. The movie moves the context into a dark, day-after-tomorrow, pre-apocalyptic Japan, pulls three or four of the more adrenaline-fueled story arcs from the anime series, then pumps up the volume.
It works. There are emotions that the human face can register that no cartoon can render, and Gambling Apocalypse Kaiji makes you feel every one of them. In the end, the bad girl wins all the money, but Kaiji is allowed to keep his own soul, and the movie leaves you feeling that it was a risk well-taken.