Shiba, a wandering ronin, encounters a band of peasants who have kidnapped the daughter of their dictatorial magistrate, in hopes of coercing from him a reduction in taxes. Shiba takes up ... See full summary »
The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
The Japanese Dream wasting away in a monochromatic postwar hell of decrepit back-alleys, cheap cabarets and dilapidated buildings
This Shochiku-Haiyuza coproduction works as a transitional step in Hideo Gosha's filmography. On one hand carrying over the social-minded consciousness of his first two films, while paving the way for the dark, pulpy aesthetics of his following three films, the conceived with regards to a serialized character Tange Sazen and the Secret of the Urn and the two Samurai Wolf films, while maintaining the elaborate plotting and heavy emphasis on intense stylization that characterizes all of his films.
Oida, played by stalwart actor, samurai icon and regular Gosha collaborater Tatsuya Nakadai, is let in on the plot of a smalltime crook while doing time in prison for killing a man and his child in a traffic accident. Trying to pick the pieces of his life as it came crashing down after the accident, he agrees to track down and murder three men. Something he doesn't seem very intent on doing, preferring instead to find out by the three men the plot they were all in together that sent their accomplice in prison. The only problem is a Hong Kongese drug dealer and his boxer henchman murdering them before he has any chance to find out more.
Gosha takes us for a tour through the seedy, rundown, sleazy life of postwar Japan, but whereas other Japanese directors sampled that selfsame seemy underbelly for colour, he seems to have a point to make. And while the plot and dialogues are second grade pulp filler, the kind of which you'd sooner find in a cheap viper page-turner, his visual calligraphy has something to communicate. Notice for example how all murders take place in shabby industrial structures. Old docks, a large water purifiying station, a waste dump with decrepit cars, an electric station. The Japanese Dream wasting away in a monochromatic postwar hell of decrepit back-alleys, cheap cabarets and dilapidated buildings, an ideal place for old dreamers, victims of that dream, to die in.
Most important in this interpretation is the way Gosha types the characters soon to be dead. A weary ex-cop who fell in love with the wife of a gangster, a factory worker who never took life in his own hands, a down-and-out ex-champion middle weight boxer, all victims of a society that is as much a victim of itself. As much a parable on Japan's rise and fall before and after WWII as a condemnation of old traditions. And through this carefully constructed topology walks Oida, at first trying to shy away from responsibility (the orphaned daughter of the first victim that follows him around and then becomes attached to him and he to her), then reluctantly embracing it, finally discovering again meaning and purpose in a life that had been devoid of any.
As a beautifully photographed, intricately-but-not-very-compellingly plotted noir thriller, Cash Calls Hell is good. Not excellent but enjoyable throughout. It's telling however that the really beautiful moments when Gosha achieves genuine pathos, above and despite genre conventions that call for bloodshed and intrigue, don't concern who stole the money or who's getting whacked by whom but the heartfelt interactions between the little girl and Oida. Simple and evocative, these small moments, not only better flesh out Oida's character, but elevate the movie to a different level altogether.
Overall Cash Calls Hell is another fine addition to the Gosha canon. Genre fans will have a ball.
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