Massacre Gun, Minagoroshi no kenjû (1967)
Directed by: Yasuharu Hasebe
Written by: Ryuzo Nakanishi, Yasuharu Hasebe
Starring: Hideaki Nitani, Jirô Okazaki, Ken Sanders, Ryôji Hayama, Takashi Kanda, Tatsuya Fuji
MASSACRE GUN (1967)
Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe
Japanese Language with English Subtitles
After being forced to kill the woman he loves by his mobster boss Akazawa, hitman Kuroda quits his position in the gang and joins forces with his younger brothers Eiji (Tatsuya Fuji) and Saburo (Jirô Okazaki) to challenge Akazawa to end his reign over them and the city. Both Kuroda and Akazawa know that the feud won’t be over until one of them is dead.
Monochrome Japanese gangster film MASSACRE GUN is a tale of crime and revenge. Quiet but skilled Kuroda is affected by the death of his lover, especially by his own hand but working for a criminal such as Akazawa, he has no choice. His youngest brother Saburo, an up and coming boxer, verbally blasts Akazawa at the boxing gym and refuses his sponsorship. Unfortunately for Saburo, Akazawa threatens his boxing career and breaks the young man’s hands in retaliation. With a lost love and an injured brother, Kuroda sees no choice but to leave Akazawa’s gang, but if only that was so simple. Once you work for the mob, there’s no backing out, so he starts his own rival gang with the help of his brothers as they begin to take over Akazawa’s turf and hit him where it hurts. For Akazawa, this feud will not end until Kuroda is dead but Kuroda will not go down without a fight.
Jô Shishido stars as Kuroda and does a terrific job playing the hitman. You can see he cares about his life and that of his brothers and he’s sick and tired of doing the bidding of the evil Akazawa (Takashi Kanda). When their bar is trashed by Akazawa’s men, they decide to hit back and fast by intimidating the owners of local establishments ‘protected’ by Akazawa to use them for protection instead. Kuroda knows it won’t work out well for either his family of Awakaza’s gang but he’s determined to be the smarter of the two and survive as long as he can. What makes matters worse is that his best friend Shirasaka (Hideaki Nitani) is high-up within Akazawa’s gang and with this declaration of war, the friendship is now over as they become enemies.
MASSACRE GUN is an artful movie, from the way it’s produced and shot to the performances and score. Between the gang-on-gang warfare, scenes of tranquility remind the viewer how beautiful life is. The relaxing sounds of blues songs sung and played on the piano in the brothers’ The Rainbow Bar, with Saburo gently tapping away the drums, is quite soothing and is a stark contrast to the daily brawl the brothers are involved in. When the action kicks off, it does so in style though with bowling balls on toes, a boat ambush and highway fire fight. It’s quite a visual movie in the way its presented, with its striking camera angles and scenes subtly oozing charisma, and feels rather Western in style but with Japanese influences.
Arrow Video have released a Limited Edition Blu-Ray of MASSACRE GUN which is limited to 3000 copies available as dual format alongside DVD with a new, 17 minutes interview with Jô Shishido, an interview with critic Tony Ryans, original theatrical trailer and image gallery as special features. The release also features reversible sleeve artwork featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian McEwan and a collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Japanese cinema expert, Jasper Sharp. The Blu-Ray transfer is really crisp and clear, as is the Japanese audio with newly translated English subtitles.