Another Lonely Hitman (1995)
By: CJ on April 26, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Artsmagic (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1:85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 5.1, Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 106 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Rokuro Mochizuki
Starring: Ryo Ishibashi, Asami Sawaki, Tatsuo Yamada and Kazuhiko Kanayama
Screenplay: Yukio Yamanouchi
Country: Japan
AKA: Shin kanashiki hittoman; Shin Kanashiki Hitman
Artsmagic unleash onto DVD another tale of Yakuza madness and violence in the form of Rokuro Mochizuki's Another Lonely Hitman. Although not quite in the league of Takashi Miike's outings (even though it pre-dates them), this is nevertheless an interesting film.

Yakuza hitman, Tachibana (Ryo Ishibashi), is released from prison after serving a ten-year stretch for the assassination of a rival gangland boss. Upon his release he is embraced back into the Yakuza family he once served so faithfully. However, times have changed and Tachibana finds himself at odds with the new ways of the Yakuza, having for so long lived under the old 'code', which no longer exists. He struggles to find his place within this new Yakuza empire but this becomes increasingly difficult for him, as he feels that he is compromising all his ideals and the 'code' is something he cannot help but live by. His strong disapproval of the new order soon leads him into conflict with his fellow Yakuza and he realises that he must make some decisive choices in order to survive.

Mochizuki's film is an intriguing portrait of a man lost in a world where he has no place anymore, a man whose ideals exist only for him and not for anyone else. Tachibana sees his 'code' as being honourable - even though we, the viewer, might find his idea of honour at odds with our own concepts of what is honourable - to him it is a noble way.

Although it doesn't quite reach the heights it aspires to, this is still a very engrossing film for the most part. There are moments where it tends to drag a little, but these are thankfully few and far between. Ryo Ishibashi is suitably enigmatic as the struggling Tachibana and it's to his credit as an actor that it's not only what he says, but what he doesn't say, that keep the film moving along. Ryo manages to convey a deep sense of sadness and loneliness without ever saying a word, which just goes to prove the calibre of his acting.

Those who are familiar with Japanese cinema will immediately connect with this film and will find it very reminiscent of Takashi Miike's gangster films (if a little less stylish), not that that's a bad thing though. Rokuro Mochizuki is a very capable director and shows that he is very comfortable with this type of material. Although it's not the best I've seen from this genre, it's still worth a look.
Video
Framed in anamorphic 1.85:1 (with slight black bars on either side of the image), this looks very respectable. The image quality is very natural looking and captures the mood of the film perfectly – this is low-budget Japanese fare, so don't go in expecting Hollywood blockbuster gloss. The contrast is well balanced with colours consistent throughout and the blacks remain solid without digital smearing. If you've seen any other Artsmagic releases, then you'll know the standard to expect.
Audio
Two Japanese language audio tracks are provided - a basic stereo track and a nicely balanced 5.1 surround sound mix, which carries quite a punch, when needed. Dialogue is crisp and clear (not that I understood it!) and the subtitles provided are easy to read. The 5.1 option is a good solid audio track overall and preferable to the stereo track, as it has a fuller ambience - though it has to be said that both tracks are in extremely good shape.
Extra Features
Once again Artsmagic go the extra mile in bringing to the DVD a nice array of supplementary features. First up is a 26-minute on-camera interview with director Rokuro Mochizuki, in which he provides some illuminating insights into the film and its making. Also provided is a feature-length audio commentary by Artsmagic favourite, Tom Mes – but he really does know his stuff, so it's well worth checking out. You can also find extensive cast and director bio's on the disc as well. An impressive package overall.
The Verdict
Another Lonely Hitman is a film that could have easily fallen into the trap of being simply yet another generic Yakuza movie, but it's to director Rokuro Mochizuki's credit that he delivers something that sets it apart from other films within this genre. Ryo Ishibashi takes the character of Tachibana and makes it his own, and it's the strength of his portrayal that really marks the film as being superior to others of its ilk. Ishibashi plays Tachibana with such depth and feeling that you can't but help being drawn to sympathise with his predicament, even if he is something of an amoral person. Yet you get the sense that there really was honour in the old 'code' and this helps to show the shallowness and empty greed of the people around him within the new order.

Overall it's an impressive piece of filmmaking that fans of Asian cinema will thoroughly enjoy, and it seems apparent to me that Takashi Miike may well have drawn inspiration from Mochizuki's work. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but you'll have to decide for yourself whether it's something you'd like or not. Either way, I thought it was a pretty damn good film and have no reservations in recommending it.
Movie Score
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