A gangster movie without any music or drama or fun – just a series of straightforward, low-key backstabbings and double-crossings, dry as can be. Its like Kitano, after being ignored for his previous trilogy (which I loved), is saying “you all want me to make violent gangster movies, fine” and making one without any excitement, like when fame-weary rock bands play self-mocking versions of the hit single they’ve grown to hate. Or maybe Kitano’s style has always been like this, and since it’s been a decade since I’ve watched Fireworks or Sonatine, I just can’t remember what they were like.
Takeshi, back in his element:
The plot just barely matters anyway. The yakuza chairman oversees families Ikemoto/Otomo, Murase and Sano-kai, all of whom want to advance their stations, but the chairman pits them against each other instead. In the end, simply everyone is dead except for Beat’s cop acquaintance and Kato (Tomukazu Miura of M/Other), former assistant to the head boss, now presumably the new boss himself. Makes me laugh that a sequel has been announced.
guy on the right is Ryo Kase of the new Gus Van Sant movie:
Supposedly Kitano’s character has a girlfriend or wife (Yuka Itaya of Sad Vacation), but really, women barely exist in this movie. As far as creatively violent attacks go, I had to look away when Kitano (on orders from his boss, Jun Kunimura of Kill Bill and Audition) performed amateur dental surgery on Murase (Renji Ishibashi, the gangster in Bird People In China, also town mayor in Sukiyaki Western Django) but I liked Murase’s subsequent scenes, looking silently enraged behind a face mask. My least favorite sidetrack was a wide-eyed African diplomat blackmailed to turn his embassy into a gambling hall.
Despite the cinemascope ratio, rarely do more than two people appear in the same frame. Maybe that’s an every-man-for-himself visual metaphor. These gangsters are certainly more solitary than, for instance, the ones in Johnny To’s Exiled.