Aka - Narazumono
One lesson people should know - you don't hire a killer and then try and
set him up and not pay him. It rarely works and then they come after you.
Especially if he looks like Takakura Ken, Chow Yun Fat or Lee Marvin. Minami
(Takakura) is a decent man, an ethical man as shown when he sucks the blood
out of the mouth of a dying prostitute that he doesn't know who is drowning
from her own blood. But he is a hired assassin. But only to kill people who
deserve it of course. He is doing a job in Kowloon and easily and efficiently
accomplishes it and goes back to his hotel room to get his pay off. Instead
he finds a dead woman in his bed and he soon learns that the man he killed
was a cop from Japan and the woman his daughter. He then sets out to find
who hired him and this takes him from Hong Kong to Yokohama to Macau.
Parallel to this is another narrative - Minami is accidentally given some
drugs by a gang headed by actor Tanba Tetsuro. Tanba sends a femme fatale
(Yôko Mihara) to persuade Minami to give the drugs back which she tries
to do with her body - but he wants something else - information on whoever
hired him. These two narratives don't really connect but keep bumping up
against one another. A lot of people's behavior feels very off and the narrative
doesn't always make sense but Takakura Ken holds it all together with his
quiet charisma. He is just one of those actors who are fascinating to watch
- kind of Clint Eastwood like in the sense that his acting is very understated
and he never has much to say - but he takes up great space. There is much
less action or violence than one might expect from the premise but Minami
kills when he has to.
The location shooting in Kowloon and especially Macau is terrific - very
street level through these poor crowded narrow streets. The one thing that
really hits you is how poor both places were back then. At one point the
camera pulls back from above and the rickety broken down buildings are revealed
in Kowloon - street after street of them. And at one point Minami is chased
through the slums of Macau that are horrendous. Clearly, a lot of change
since them. Even old Shaw films made back then usually focus on the more
upscale parts of both cities.
This is directed by Teruo Ishii. He was one of Japan's most successful commercial
directors knocking out a passel of Yakuza films in the late 1950's and 60's.
He started the very popular Abashiri Prisoner films that made a star of Takakura
Ken, which began a year after this film. He was to direct ten of them. When
the Yakuza films began to go out of style he left Toei and began making films
that pushed the boundaries of what good taste in film was considered at the
time with Horrors of Malformed Men, Orgies of Edo, Inferno of Torture, Female
Yakuza Tale and others. Then he made a few Sonny Chiba films and then went
back to Takakura Ken for some films. So a varied career that I need to explore