Kanashiki Hittoman, or Another Lonely Hitman as it’s known in the US,
is the story of a hitman named Tachibana, who, after shooting himself
up with heroin because he was told that it would give him courage,
assassinates a rival gang leader right in the middle of a restaraunt in
plain sight for everyone to see. He told everyone to stay still
and not to move but one girl, the gang leader’s daughter, was freaked
out, and when she moved, he shot her in the leg. He told the
restaraunt people to call the police. He was arrested and spent
many long years sitting in prison contemplating what he had done, and
regretting it. One good thing that came from his time in prison
is that he managed to get clean, and now has developed a strong hatred
for heroin and the pushers that get people hooked on it.
Once released, Tachibana somewhat reluctantly went back into his
yakuza gang. He didn’t want to kill anymore, so they assigned him
a partner named Yuji and sent them to do various collection jobs.
He was highly respected for what he had done, and was considered a
valuable asset to the gang even though he didn’t want to be a hitman
On his off time, he had arranged to have a prostitute come to spend
some time with him at the room he was renting. A relationship
developed between him and the prostitute, and over time, he came to
care a great deal for her. Eventually though, he found out that
she was a heroin addict. When he found this out, he broke her
syringe, chained her to the bed and forced her to kick the habit.
It was a very violent and painful thing for both of them to endure, but
finally she did manage to struggle through it and come out clean.
During this process however, Tachibana and Yuji went on a mission
to drive out or kill all the drug pushers in the area.
Unfortunately for him, one of his own gang’s bosses was involved in
financing the creation of heroin laced cigarettes, and when the gang
found out what he was doing, they went after Tachibana for ruining the
drug trade in town. He turned the tables on them though, and he
and Yuji managed to escape from the bosses with Tachibana’s
"retirement" money. Unfortunately, it seems as though it’s an
unwritten rule of Japanese gangster films that you’re never allowed to
have a happy ending. I won’t spoil it by telling you exactly what
happens, but I’ll just say I knew what was going to happen long before
it did, and if you’ve seen a lot of these kinds of movies, then you can
probably guess how it ended up.
I was pleasantly surprised however to find that this film had
characters that actually made you care about them. There were
layers to their personalities and they were allowed to be three
dimensional rather than just two dimensional caricatures of the same
ol’ people you’re probably used to seeing in these types of films.
Tachibana, the hitman, had an inner sadness and a regret over the
things he had done in the past, but there is also a hardness about him
that he has no problem unleashing on the less savory members of
society. Underneath all that though, is a man who just wants to
get away from all the crime and the drugs and the nastiness of society,
and to take the girl he’s come to love off to the sea where he will
finally live out his dream of becoming a fisherman.
For her part, his prostitute girlfriend only really seems to want
to love him and to be with him. Despite all of her wretchedness
as she was coming off of her addiction, she was really just a nice,
loving girl who had been trapped into a life of prostitution by a nasty
pimp who made her all kinds of promises about helping her to get her
singing career off the ground, and then never delivered. It’s ok
though, because Tachibana beat the hell out of him for her.
Yuji, who looked up to Tachibana and knew that in his heart he was
a good and decent man, played the part of the loyal friend, who even at
his own peril, stuck by Tachibana in his mission to kill or otherwise
drive out all the drug dealers in the city.
Despite all their problems and regrets, these three characters were
all good people, and when viewed against the seedy backdrop of the city
and all it’s crime and violence, you really find yourself hoping that
they’ll make it and that they’ll all be ok in the end.
The story itself held together quite well. There weren’t a lot of
boring scenes of nothing happening that you tend to see in many
Japanese films, and in fact there were some nice, violent scenes that
made the movie exciting and at times quite intense.
Overall, everything played out very nicely and I have no doubt that
fans of Japanese cinema, as well as people who are more generically
into crime dramas, will really enjoy this film. It is a drama
though, and the only really bad thing I can say about this movie is
that they went with the obvious and expected ending rather than trying
to be original. See, in the US, when a film has a depressing
ending instead of a happy one, that would be considered "outside the
box." In Japanese yakuza / crime type films, the general rule
seems to be the exact opposite. So if this film had been allowed
to have a happy ending, that would have been considered more "outside
the box" than the ending they went with. Untimately though, it
was not enough to ruin an otherwise excellent film and really only
played a minor role at best in my overall view of it.
Coming in at 104 minutes, you’d think it might be a bit long.
Fortunately, though, not a minute was wasted. Every scene was
used to either tell the story or add depth to the characters.
Absent were the five minute long scenes of someone walking down the
street that serve no other purpose than to make you want to reach for
the fast forward button on the remote. I would just like to take
a moment to thank the director, Rokuro Mochizuki, for sparing us from
such sleep inducing imagery. I have a hard enough time staying
awake in general without being subjected to stuff like that. So
thank you Rokuro Mochizuki for giving me a reason to stay awake.
This film has a depth that makes it stand out amongst its peers,
and that’s a very rare thing indeed. The story, the directing,
the acting, the editing and the pacing were all excellent, and everyone
involved should be proud of what they accomplished.
If you’d like to pick up this disc, or check out some of ArtsmagicDVD’s other releases you can check out their website at http://www.artsmagicdvd.com.