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Another Lonely Hitman
cast: Ryo Ishbashi, Asami Sawaki, Tatsuo Yamada, and Kazuhiko Kanayama

director: Rokuro Mockizuki

105 minutes (18) 1995
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Artsmagic DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Andrew Hook
This movie was director Rokuro Mochizuki's first yakuza picture after a long period cutting his teeth in the Japanese erotic pinku industry, and it kicks off a series of his movies to be released by Artsmagic. The fact that this is an accomplished piece of filmmaking demonstrates that those earlier movies weren't a waste of his talent, more a honing of his skills, although the rather clichéd storyline ultimately doesn't do enough to raise the movie above the merely interesting.

The opening sequence features hardboiled hitman Tachibana (Ryo Ishibashi) shooting up heroin in a restaurant toilet prior to killing the boss of a rival syndicate. An incredibly tense moment follows as he leaves the toilet and a young boy enters. The doped up Tachibana points the gun to the boy's head, and also lets him innocently handle it. As Tachibana is approaching his first kill the metaphor is obvious, but still effective. After the boss' brains are on the table - and there are only a few squeamish moments in this film - Tachibana gets spooked and unintentionally shoots a woman in the leg. This seems to bother him more than the murder, and accepting his fate he tells a waitress to call the police.

The film continues ten years later when Tachibana is released from prison. In the intervening years the world has changed considerably, and the yakuza 'code' that Tachibana adheres to no longer applies... His gang is now subservient to another, and an uneasy - yet preferable - truce allows all gangsters to operate without encroaching on each other's territory. Essentially, the underworld is a better place (of sorts), and Tachibana is an interesting character as he clings to old ideals with a kind of shaky morality, eschewing the dodgy deals and drugs of his contemporaries yet also prepared to sever his own finger when ordered to by his superiors and having no qualms in killing or beating drug dealers who cross his path.

Tachibana's growing realisation that the gangster life no longer holds anything for him, as he operates amongst weaklings and business-focussed gang members, is the focus of the film. He becomes involved with Yuki (Asami Sawaki) - a 'welcome back' prostitute - and their relationship is further intertwined after he beats up her pimp who coincidentally is a leading player in a rival gang. One of the main threads of the story - and indeed the most effective - is Tachibana's resolution to wean Yuki off heroin. Sawaki plays her role well - winning our admiration if not our sympathy. When Tachibana and Yuki head off into the proverbial sunset there are no prizes for guessing the outcome, and indeed, the standard ending disappoints with its B-movie overtones.

Overall, Another Lonely Hitman is an interesting, mostly well-acted drama, about a gangster who finds himself out of time following his release from prison. However, because it is tied too tightly to a conventional genre backdrop, it isn't half as good as it could have been had it taken a more psychological route.

DVD extras include an interview with the director, cast and director biographies and filmographies, and a useful commentary by Tom Mes (acclaimed Japanese cinema writer).

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