Genre: Humanitarian Yakuza Hitman Tale
review in one breath
Mochizuki's earliest directorial work was limited to pink / "porn" films, producing six such films between 1983 and 1992. Following this fleshy foray, Mochizuki turned almost exclusively to Yakuza-themed films, starting with Gokudo Kisha (1993) for Daiei Productions. Since this shift in content, Mochizuki has directed 29 yakuza-based films the most recent of which is Gokudo Kisha (2004) starring pop legend Matsukata Hiroki. Another Lonely Hitman, the film under review here, is the 6th film following Mochizuki's reformation and is a sequel of sorts to the 1989 film Lonely Hitman by director Ichikura Haruo starring (then) heart-throb idol Miura Tomokazu as the hitman.
I found both Onibi and Another Lonely Hitman to be thoroughly entertaining and contemplative yakuza tales wherein the inner struggle of the main character takes precedence over flash and dramatic presentation. Here one gets a real taste of the classic Japanese yakuza tales revolving around allegiance, principle and honor. Our hitmen are realistic individuals struggling to adapt to new lives and new realizations. And although the narrative also includes violence, sex and drugs, these are presented as moral obstacles to the main character which he is either obligated to engage in (ie violence) or is forced to fight against (ie drugs). (But I'm pretty sure he engages in the sex out of free will...)
There is a certain distinguishable flavor to the older-generation Japanese films which is often lacking in the more contemporary "new wave" films which glorify extremities in violence, sex and outlandish characters. (Perhaps the same can be said of Western film as well.) In my review of Onibi I mentioned Katsu Shintaro in the role of a marvelously humanitarian yet deadly Zatoichi as an excellent example of this traditional emphasis upon empathy and honor above narrative extremes. Thus the difference between Katsu's character and Kitano Takeshi's role in his recent Zatoichi exemplifies this generational shift, and parallels the real philosophical differences between Another Lonely Hitman and its more contemporary brethren.
After 10 years in prison for the murder of the Hakushin family boss, Tachibana Takashi (Ishibashi Ryo) is welcomed back into the arms of the Hirakawa syndicate for a service well done. As Tachibana slowly acclimates himself back into the freedoms of society, he gradually realizes the degree to which the world, and in particular the yakuza world has changed. The long standing war of disagreement between the Hakushin and Hirakawa gangs has been "forgiven" through large cash gifts. Thus honor and respect give way to an economic necessity and any affront which would have caused an outbreak of violence in the old days is now settled solely through large sums of money. Out of a sincere allegiance to the Hirakawa family boss, Tachibana represses his indignation at the new, weaker order, until, that is, he discovers that money-hungry leaders under the Hirakawa and Hakushin bosses have quietly gone into the business of dope dealing, an activity strictly forbidden by traditional yakuza principle.
With his new protege Takayama Yuji (Kanayama Kazuhiko), Tachibana is given the task of suppressing the sudden rise in drug use within the lower rank and file yakuza, an assignment given by the Hirakawa boss unaware that the origin of the problem derives from his own lead men. Thus when Tachibana and Yuji begin to take this new assignment to extremes (Tachibana really disdains drug use!) he is soon stepping on the toes (more like bashing a brick to the head) of his immediate superiors. When these superiors are then able to deceive the Hirakawa boss into blaming Tachibana for a disruption of the inter-gang peace and stability, a breaking point is reached and Tachibana's unbending inner principles will no longer be silenced.
Another Lonely Hitman is both philosophically and narratively impressive. I realize some will disagree with this degree of praise due to the old-school approach this film takes, but I cannot help but be impressed by the quality and depth of this story. One of the main elements in my enjoyment of Japanese film involves the window they provide into traditional Japanese sensibilities, and on this level Another Lonely Hitman really comes through. The lasting impression of watching this film (and Onibi) is not lingering scenes of blood, violence or sex, but of a moral quandry between allegiance to family and allegiance to one's inner principle. Both Onibi and Another Lonely Hitman did an excellent job, in my opinion, of thoroughly depicting the moral dilemma faced by the main characters. Another Lonely Hitman left me with a feeling of appreciation and nostalgia for the traditional nobilities permeating these old-school tales.
Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD
|A clear window into traditional depictions of yakuza/bushido nobility and adherence to principle.||Several beatings, many using creative weapons such as garbage cans, street signs and bricks. Probably more vomiting per capita than you'll find anywhere else. Some gun violence.||Tachibana's new girlfriend enjoys expressive dance in the nude!||Old-school yakuza tale pitting principle against allegiance. Better stand back!|