I went into this film not expecting much but I ended up pleasantly surprised. The characters were the usual archetypes of wounded 20 somethings, wise elderly and nasty gangsters. However, as a genre film, I don't think that the film suffered for their use. Instead I quite enjoyed the interactions between the protagonists and the warmth in their makeshift family. Also, the unrelenting menace of the antagonists was genuinely gripping.
The main character, Goro, is suitably mysterious, with only the vaguest of outline as to his past. Not being a flaw in any way, it keeps the film from any 'I also cook' kind of clichés and allows his character to fill the shoes of the 'unknown quantity', essentially for these kinds of stories. As above, the other characters range from supporting to integral roles but all have at least something that lets them sparkle throughout the course of the film.
Similarly, the action scenes, of which there are a few, while not taking centre-stage, are well executed but should be noted for their chaotic choreography. Anyone can fight when their lives depend on it and their effectiveness comes down to their training and experience. I quite liked how raw and undisciplined these scenes were. It shows how little need there really is for martial arts precision in action films when the fights are kept real.
It was an enjoyable film with an ending I didn't quite expect. I recommend it to anyone interested in Japanese film of this genre. Just don't go in with your Hollywood hat, and you will have a good time with the subtle course of the film.
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