What could possibly go wrong when you send a hitman to kill the woman he loves? We find out in this 1967 Japanese mob film directed by Yasuharu Hasebe.
The Movie Itself [usr 4.5] :
Set in Japan during a time when mob bosses ruled their territories with violence when necessary, we begin our dive into Massacre Gun with a smooth jazz piece during the opening scene. In fact, the jazz will follow us throughout the entire film, setting the pace and mood of the film in a really cool way.
We discover early on that Kuroda, one of the top hitmen of mob boss Akazawa, has been directed to kill the woman he loves. Being a faithful henchman, he accomplishes the task, but is shaken to the core, and his loyalties are no longer sure. After the deed has been done, he stumbles back to his brother’s jazz bar (hence the music) and burns the plane tickets that he’d planned on giving her to aid in her escape.
Kuroda’s two brothers find him grieving and uncover what he has done for his boss. This causes a fury in the brothers that ultimately leads to Saburo, the youngest brother, telling off Akazawa and quitting his boxing career in one of the boss’s boxing gyms. Akazawa does not take kindly to Saburo’s attitude, nor his resignation, and promptly beats him savagely, leaving his hands unusable in the ring for life.
This act of aggression towards his brother is exactly what is needed to break the bonds Kuroda has with the organization, and leads the brothers to engage in a series of power plays that results in them taking a good chunk of Akazawa’s territory as their own. What develops soon after is an all out turf war between Akazawa’s gang and the three brothers.
One refreshing aspect of Massacre Gun is how our main protagonist handles this whole series of events calmly and with an air of respect. Not only does he turn on his surrogate father figure Akazawa; he also has to end a longtime friendship with another of the mob’s top hit men. He makes true sacrifices in is quest to do what is right, and it really helps the viewer connect with him.
As you might expect, there must be a final showdown. I won’t give away any details, but I will say that Massacre Gun’s ending is stylish, brutal, and fantastic.
This film is one of the more pure gangster films I’ve seen. Even though the plot is a little predictable, you still cannot help but enjoy every minute of the stylized telling of it. I highly recommend giving this film a watch.
Video Quality [usr 4.5] :
Originally shot in 1967 in black and white, this film has been wonderfully restored and brought to blu ray by Arrow Films. The picture is every bit as good as most black and white films shot today. There is some grain, as to be expected when shooting without color, but there is very little dirt or tear in the picture at all. This is a fantastic looking blu ray.
Audio Quality [usr 3.5]:
Sporting a Japanese mono audio track with English subtitles, I was pleasantly surprised with how good this sounded. Granted, you can only get so much detail when you are not in surround sound, but I found myself rarely concerned with the lack of audio tracks and more enthralled with the jazzy soundtrack and great acting.
Special Features [usr 3]:
There’s not a lot of extras here, but the few things it does have are quite interesting and exclusive to blu ray.
- Interview with Jo Shishido (18mins):
- Exclusive interview for this Arrow Films release, we get a rather interesting talk with the star of the film and discover what inspired him to start acting and what his experiences were in making Massacre Gun.
- Interview with Tony Rayns (36mins):
- Another exclusive interview for the Arrow release. Tony Rayns is a well known historian and critic and discusses with us the topic of Nikkatsu films.
- Original Trailer (2mins)
- Promotional Gallery
- A handful of promotional stills
- 50gb Blu ray and DVD
- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- English subtitles
- Audio Formats:
- Japanese LPCM Mono
Final Thoughts [usr 4]:
Massacre Gun is a fantastic film that is sure to entertain. The blu ray itself is limited to 3000 copies, so do yourself a favor and grab yours before they are unavailable. You won’t regret it.
Full disclosure: This feature was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process.