Arriving on Blu-Ray/DVD combo from Arrow Video on April 7th comes the second release from Nikkatsu Studios, ‘Massacre Gun,’ or as it is known in Japan, ‘Minagoroshi no kenjû,’ a jazzy, black-and-white, pseudo-noir about 2 rival factions that battle to the death over control of local territory.
When you are in the Yakuza, you do whatever your Boss tells you to do…no matter what. In the particular case of Ryûichi Kuroda (Jo Shishido), Boss Akazawa (Takashi Kanda) has asked Kuroda to murder his lover, who just so happens to have run off with him from Akazawa. Kuroda comes to her in the night and is greeted warmly, knowing full well what he has to do. When the deed is done, Kuroda goes to his brother’s club where he is greeted by his 2 brothers, Saburo (Jiro Okazaki), an up and coming boxer and part time jazz drummer, and Eiji (Tatsuya Fuji), resident hot head and the club’s owner.
The next day at the gym, which is owned by Akazawa, Saburo pummels his sparring partner, the guy who is supposed to fight the next night. Akazawa shows up and questions Saburo, who in turn questions Akazawa why he made Kuroda kill his woman. Obviously, this doesn’t sit well with Akazawa, and he has his men work him over, breaking his hands, seemingly ending his boxing career. In a very poignant scene, Saburo is in bed, lamenting his situation, surrounded by advertisements for his fights and even a trophy in the foreground reminding him of his one time greatness.
Kuroda renounces his position in the Akazawa gang, turning in his badge. He then meets Shirasaka (Hideaki Nitani) his best and only friend outside of his brothers. Kuroda and Shirasaka came up as kids through the organization and have a very tight bond. Shirasaka tries to talk him into coming back, almost begging him, but Kuroda knows he is doing the right thing.
That night, Akazawa sends his goons to trash Eiji’s place, where Kuroda advises an enraged Eiji to let them do what they will. After they are done, Kuroda and his brothers clean up and open that very night when they are visited by Shirasaka, who implores Kuroda once again to come back. This time, they part as enemies and Kuroda decides to strike first and fast. What follows is a swift, violent, turf war between the 3 wronged Kuroda brothers and the Akazawa gang, apparently with an unlimited budget for bullets, as each major kill consisted of 20-50 bullets. With that many shots and not that much blood, the actors were sometimes juggled by the shots, making the particular deaths a little ridiculous, but no less amazing.
This film was a great watch. I really loved the intense action that was not ruined by unnecessary over the top yelling, as is common in a lot of Japanese films, and the black and white 1080p transfer looks fantastic with subtle film grain that adds to the grittiness of the film. I am also now a fan of Jo Shishido because, the dude is just cool. Throughout the entire movie, he barely raises his voice, and his facial expression remains the same. He reminds me of the character from the Anime, Golgo 13, about a ruthless mercenary assassin who always hits his mark. Something tells me that the character of Golgo 13 was directly based on Jo Shishido, especially when they are both looking down the scope of their rifles…the resemblance is too uncanny. One of the extras is a brand new insightful interview with Jo Shishido made just for this release, where he talks about his life and working in the film industry. Another extra feature is a brand new interview with Tony Rayns, where he gives an oral history of Nikkatsu studios.
This is yet another must own release from Arrow, but hurry, as this is a limited edition of 3,000. Pre-order here.
- Limited Edition Blu-ray (3000 copies only)
- Restored High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation, on Blu-ray for the first time in the world!
- Original uncompressed mono PCM audio
- Newly translated English subtitles
- Brand new interview with star Jo Shishido
- Interview with renowned critic and historian Tony Rayns
- Original theatrical trailer
- Gallery featuring rare promotional images
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan
- Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp, newly illustrated by Ian MacEwan and featuring original archive stills