Many great stories begin after ice cubes chime against the glass walls of emptied tumblers, after the hard knock of declaration from a shot glass’s empty belly rings across the desperation-stained bar counter, and nose hairs of passers-by curl upward after being singed by the breaths of barflies out for a smoke. Intoxication, immoderation, and intimidation are all great facilitators of a spontaneous leap into the unknown. Just ask Black Lagoon‘s Rokuro Okajima, Japanese salaryman for Asahi Industries, who first finds himself at gunpoint of and then impromptu tactician for the Lagoon Company, a band of mercenaries in the South China Sea.
What changes Rokuro Okajima’s name to Rock? A drinking contest of course! It all starts off innocently enough. The businessman, posing no threat, is invited out to his captors’ favorite bar while they wait for the details to be worked out on the deal which initially brought about this situation as well as the issue of the hostage’s ransom/return. Japanese pride being about the same as drunken, hormonal frat boy bravado, Rokuro gets taunted into a shot-for-shot test of liver stamina with the ship’s resident badass, Revy, and rum (if Bacardi can be called rum).
“I was forced to drink at college! We’re forced to drink at company social events! Never underestimate a Japanese businessman!” Rokuro exclaims after pounding back a tumbler full of Bacardi. After a few intervening scenes and a commercial break, Revy and Rokuro are still going at it, guzzling down Bacardi to the cheers of a gathered crowd. Then all hell breaks loose. Bullets fly. Bottles crash. People die. This isn’t only the world’s most bad-ass bar fight, this is a hazing! Although Rokuro spends most of the time cowering behind the bar, he decides to leave with his captors even after being given the chance to part ways right then and there. That’s immoderation covered, but what about intoxication and intimidation?
Like all morning afters, consequences of decisions made under the drink tend to make one wince in daylight. Rock ends up aboard the Lagoon Company’s ship and in a very precarious situation: a cat and mouse game between their PT boat and an armed-to-the-teeth gunship. Rokuro’s last gasp — the whining hysteria of one who values the keeping of his life more so than the living of it — is quelled by the ship’s captain, Dutch, by way of KO uppercut, and Rock is born from the ashes of his former desperation. He has become mad, intoxicated by the springboard of having one’s back against a wall. After the adrenaline of Rock’s successfully executed battle plan wears off and the empty cans of beer strewn about the ship roll around like reminders of an answered prayer, it’s time to relish this revolution against intimidation by … passing out. This great moment in drinking, the transformation of not only name but soul, comes to a close with a big middle finger to “the man” and a pirate’s life for Rock. Drink up me hearties, yo ho!