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Saturday, May 8, 2010


This sharp little crime film from Japan’s Nikkatsu Studios was made for the local market, but it’s getting a welcome Stateside release as part of Criterion’s mid-‘60s Japanese noirs series. Anyone who’s enjoyed the laconic French gangsters of Jean-Pierre Melville or Sergio Leone’s ‘Spaghetti Western’ anti-heroes will know the terrain. Tough-guy Joe Shishido (of the chipmunk cheeks & Bobby Darin swagger) is the seasoned professional hitman who never misses. But once he ‘removes’ the rival's boss, the gang that hired him is now free to join up with their former enemies. Suddenly, Shishido is the one guy they all want out of the picture, permanently. The hitman is now the target. But you misread Shishido’s stoicism for fatalism at your peril. Helmer Takashi Monura does a beautiful job organizing his scenes & compositions, the film runs like a dream, but he doesn’t quite have the spatial orientation chops to pull off what should be a jaw-dropping finale. Even so, except for the fake Ennio Morricone score from Harumi Ibe, it’s a handsome & satisfying piece of work.

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