Massacre Gun is the other kind of conventional Yakuza film – if Blind Woman’s Curse is all about the honor of the Yakuza Code triumphing over other dishonorable gangsters, Massacre Gun is about keeping to the code even, and especially if it means your death.
Oddly enough, it’s also the kind of film that, if you made it about the Mafia and set it in the US, would be a more nihilistic “crime doesn’t pay” film – the film’s ending would read as playing up the futility of life in organized crime, and how the only way out is in a coffin. Instead, as painted in this film, it’s basically the Yakuza as Samurai. Instead of the end of the film reflecting the futility of life in organized crime, it feels more like it’s abut dying with honor.
The film stars Joe Shishido as Ryūichi Kuroda, who is a long standing member of the Azakawa clan, with his brothers – Eiji and Saburo also being connected. Eiji runs a club that fronts for Yakuza operations, and Saburo is a boxer who trains at a gym the gang runs.
After Ryūichi is forced to kill his lover at boss Azakawa’s orders, his brothers ask him to leave the gang, but he refuses. It is only after Saburo’s hands are broken by Azakawa as punishment for Saburo voicing his objections does Ryūichi decide to quit and go into business for himself, putting him at odds for his former boss.
All of that encapsulates one of the big problems with this film. The women in this story have no agency and are non-entities. They’re told or admit that they are incapable of understanding the bonds of honor (and toxic masculinity – though that part isn’t mentioned) of the world of the Yakuza.
Further, Joe Shishido plays Ryūichi like he doesn’t want to do any of this. I don’t just mean he doesn’t want to rebel against his former boss, I mean anything in this film. His reactions are just a constant sense of reluctance. This is all made worse by Joe’s surgically augmented cheekbones. Not cheeks – cheekbones. It feels like the intent of the surgery was to make him look more cherubic, but instead it just limits his range as an actor. He has less facial expressions to work with.
Ultimately this film’s fairly bland story and mixed performances can’t save it. There is some good cinematography in this film, but that’s not the reason to go see it.
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