Another Lonely Hitman

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Dir. Rokuro Mochizuki
1995
Rokuro Mochizuki’s moody, downbeat Yakuza tale may mention “hitman” in the title, but apart from a backstory sequence Ryo Ishibashi’s gangster doesn’t even use a gun. Out of prison 10 years after whacking a family boss, Ishibashi’s Tachibana tries to fit back into the lifestyle only to find it cynical and without honor. He doesn’t get sent out on hits–instead he and a younger partner usually wind up kicking the hell out of junkies and pimps. You know, dull stuff. At the same time, he tries to rescue a prostitute, Yuki (Asami Sawaki) from the game and get her to kick heroin. Pretty soon, Tachibana wants out.


That’s really all there is to Mochizuki’s film, but the gloomy, autumnal air of Osaka, not the most photogenic of cities, puts Another Lonely Hitman on a level with some of the grim realism of 1970s American crime films (in an interview, Mochizuki mentions “French Connection II” as an influence. Ishibashi is a bit like Christopher Walken–mysterious delivery, open, far-off expression–though Asami Sawaki’s Yuki is a bit grating as the girlfriend. However, she does balance the kawaii business with some harrowing Trainspotting-esque moments of debased junk-kicking.
Now that the Yakuza genre is being examined by the West (instead of staying isolated as a cheap genre that only Japanese ‘get’), directors like Mochizuki and his antecedents may be worth studying. I’ve put his other available film, Onibi: The Fire Within on the Netflix Queue.
As for the DVD, this is a really crummy print, overly blue, and with a strange, thick black border around the whole frame, like it was shrunk by 80%. On the other hand, Tom Mes provides commentary and the DVD adds an interview with Rokuro Mochizuki, during which we understand that he is quite troubled by the popularity of Morning Musume.

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