08th Apr2015

‘Massacre Gun’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Jô Shishido, Tatsuya Fuji, Jirô Okazaki, Ryôji Hayama, Takashi Kanda, Hideaki Nitani, Ken Sanders, Tamaki Sawa | Written by Yasuharu Hasebe, Ryûzô Nakanishi | Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe

massacre-gun

Gangster movies have always been popular, especially with the likes of The Godfather Trilogy and Goodfellas almost defining what we see as masterpieces of the genre.  When we look to world cinema though, and especially Japan there are some movies that fans should look at to broaden their perspective.  Massacre Gun (Minagoroshi no kenjû) is one of them which gets a release on Blu-ray from Arrow Video this week.

When hitman Kuroda (Jô Shishido) is ordered by his employers to kill the woman he loves he joins forces with his brothers Eiji (Tatsuya Fuji) and Saboruo (Jirô Okazaki) to gain revenge on the wrongs that have been done to them.  As their power rises and the violence escalates Kuroda knows the inevitability is the war will only end in an all-out battle which will likely kill them all.

Comparing Massacre Gun to the Hollywood gangster movies shows the big difference between the Japanese style of storytelling and the American one, Japanese is more cool and calm where the American style heads towards violence at a brisker pace.  In the world of the Japanese organised crime shown on-screen, respect is one of the most important things and Kuroda is a character where respect is everything.  He doesn’t rush into violence, if anything he sits back and waits until he needs to act, planning that perfect time to deal the harshest blow.  Massacre Gun isn’t a movie that is mainly focused on the art of the hitman, but more about the strategist willing to take down a whole organisation with the sole aim of gaining the respect that he believes he deserved.

If you notice anything about Massacre Gun it is just how stylish and “cool” it is.  The gangsters are easily recognisable for the almost uniform way they look and perform their duties.  They move from business-to-business pushing each owner for protection money and this securing control over their territory by intimidation.  The fact that Kuroda and his family are successful in stealing territory so easy is a slap in the face and a lack of honour, with the sole purpose of pushing for a war. When this inevitability does arrive at the end of the movie it comes in a big set piece that again isn’t just about the violence that we see on the screen, but the honour of the main combatants where henchmen are just cannon fodder leading up to the main battle between the masters of their art.  It sounds very dramatic, but this is the whole point.  It is a Samurai battle done in a style that is continued to this day with the likes of Takashi Miike, though his style is a lot more visceral in nature.

Through the Arrow Video releases this is the second Japanese gangster film from the sixties I’ve reviewed, the first being Branded to Kill, which also starred Jô Shishido.  Thankfully Massacre Gun is easier to understand, though this is not to say that Branded to Kill isn’t a good film, the truth is the exact the opposite.  Both have that stylish feel about them, and have an effortless coolness that in all honestly may not be to everybody’s taste but I myself enjoy.  With a focus that is more about the respect side of organised crime and the importance of strategy rather than all-out war, these films leave me wanting more and luckily there are plenty of avenues to go down to experience more of these films both classic and modern.

With Massacre Gun Arrow Video take the audience into a world that many may not have experienced, where plenty have and will enjoy the quality of this release.  While the special features don’t include a commentary track, the interview with critic and historian Tony Rayns is very informative with its look at the Japanese film industry and the brand new interview with Jô Shishido is going to be something fans are going to be very interesting in seeing.  I’ll admit to not being as experienced in classic Japanese cinemas as I would hope, but Arrow Video’s release of Massacre Gun is an excellent way for me to start on a journey to remedy that situation.

****½  4.5/5

Massacre Gun is available on Dual-Format DVD and Blu-ray in the UK now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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