Saturday, August 24, 2019

Branded to Kill

Directed by Seijun Suzuki and written by Hachiro Guryu, Koroshi no raikun (Branded to Kill) is the story of a yakuza hitman whose attempt to kill a target goes horribly wrong forcing him to fend off against other assassins gunning for his position as a top hitman. It’s a film that plays into a man whose meeting with a woman who asks him to do something where he deals with his mistakes and letting his guard down. Starring Joe Shishido, Koji Nanbara, Isao Tamagawa, Annu Mari, Mariko Ogawa, and Hiroshi Minami. Koroshi no raikun is a gripping and audacious film from Seijun Suzuki.

The film revolves a highly-revered yakuza hitman who is among the top ranked assassins in the business but due to a botched hit that went horribly wrong because of an act of nature. He becomes the hunted while he finds himself falling for the woman hired to kill the target that didn’t go well as he also goes on a search to find out who is the number one hitman in all of Japan. Hachiro Guryu’s screenplay explores the life and work of Goro Hanada (Joe Shishido) who has arrived to Tokyo with his new wife Mami (Mariko Ogawa) where Hanada aids a former hitman for an assignment as it would be a success despite the body count and encounters with other rival hitmen. Upon encountering the mysterious Misako (Annu Mari), Hanada’s world starts to unravel as he becomes infatuated by Misako despite having an intense sexual relationship with Mami as he becomes paranoid about who is trying to kill him while trying to discover the identity of this mysterious hitman known as Number 1 (Koji Nanbara). Hanada would succumb to madness but also obsession in trying to find Number 1 but also deal with the fact that he can’t trust anyone.

Seijun Suzuki’s direction is definitely stylish in terms of its look and compositions as it play into this underworld that is shot and set in and around Tokyo that is vibrant and dangerous. Even in the nightclubs, forest-like locations in some parts of the film and other scenes that play into this world of violence where assassins try to kill one another to be in the top spot but also try to find Number 1 and kill him or else they get killed as he is known for his trademark kills. Suzuki’s compositions definitely bear elements of style in terms of the way he would put his characters in a frame or in the setting they’re in. The usage of wide and medium shots add to the world that Hanada lives in as it include scenes in his apartment where he chases around Mami who is often seen naked in their apartment with the exception of her genitals covered due restriction codes in Japan. The sex scenes do add this strange yet crazed sense of energy as it help play into the film’s offbeat tone.

The film also has these grand visuals that play into many themes as it relates to Hanada’s fascination with Misako who collects dead things around her apartment home. The way Suzuki would create these compositions to play into this attraction between these two people as well as this world they live in that is dark and chaotic. Even in the film’s climax where Hanada has to fend off various assassins as Suzuki’s compositions are striking where he would shoot a scene under a car and would keep moving as it would be displayed in a long take. The usage of long takes add to the visual splendor of the film that include these offbeat compositions as it relates to Hanada’s growing paranoia and obsession towards Misako. Even in the third act as his obsession turns to the mysterious Number 1 who would unveil himself where their meeting is more of a meeting of the minds rather than kill one another. The film’s finale is told in a stylish manner but it also play into the fallacy of life in the underworld as well as the obsession to be the top dog in the world of the yakuza. Overall, Suzuki crafts a visually-dazzling and riveting film about a yakuza hitman fending off other assassins following for a botched job for a woman he would fall for.

Cinematographer Kazue Nagatsuka does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it’s a highlight of the film with its vibrant usage of shades and shadows for some of the interior scenes at the apartment as well as lights for the exterior scenes set at night. Editor Matsuo Tanji does excellent work with the editing for its stylish usage of jump-cuts and transition wipes to help play into the suspense and drama. Production designer Sukezo Kawahara does amazing work with the look of the apartments and places the characters go to including Misako’s apartment that is filled with dead birds and insects on her walls. The sound work of Yoshinobu Akino is fantastic for its sound effects that help play into the suspense as well as Hanada’s growing paranoia including the way gunshots are presented. The film’s music by Naozumi Yamamoto is incredible for its jazz-inspired music score with some playful pianos and string instruments that add to the energy of the film as well as its moments of suspense as it’s a major highlight of the film.

The film’s superb cast feature a couple of small roles from Hiroshi Minami as a former hitman in Gihei Kasuga who asks for Hanada’s help in an assignment and Isao Tamagawa as the yakuza boss Michiko Yabuhara as a man who gives Hanada jobs but also would flirt with Mami and later give the order for Hanada’s death. Mariko Ogawa is terrific as Hanada’s new wife Mami as a young woman that enjoys walking around naked at her apartment and engage in strange sexual exploits with her husband but would start to unravel when things don’t go well for Hanada.

Annu Mari is fantastic as Misako as a mysterious woman who hires Hanada for an assignment only things to go wrong as she is this odd figure with an obsession for death as she would eventually be infatuated with Hanada. Koji Nanbara is excellent in a small yet intriguing performance as the mysterious assassin known as Number 1 as this man who is an expert in being a hitman but is also someone that is an expert in mystique and being unidentified. Finally, there’s Joe Shishido in an amazing performance as Goro Hanada as the third-ranked hitman in Tokyo as he deals with a botched assignment and his growing paranoia in being hunted as well as the anguish he endures over his marriage and obsession towards Misako as it’s a performance that has Shishido acting cool and then becoming crazy and dangerous.

Koroshi no raikun is a spectacular film from Seijun Suzuki. Featuring a great cast, gorgeous visuals, a hypnotic and searing tone, a gripping exploration of obsession and paranoia, and a killer music soundtrack. It’s a film that explores a hitman dealing with failure and being hunted while dealing with his role as a killer for hire that would lead to his own descent. In the end, Koroshi no raikun is a tremendous film from Seijun Suzuki.

Seijun Suzuki Films: (Victory is Mine) – (Eight Hours of Terror) – (The Naked Woman and the Gun) – (Underworld Beauty) – (Young Breasts) – (Voice Without a Shadow) – (Take Aim at the Police Van) – (Everything Goes Wrong) – (Go to Hell, Hoodlums!) – (Man with a Shotgun) – (Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!) – (Youth of the Beast) – (The Bastard (1963 film)) – (Kanto Wanderer) – (The Flower and the Angry Waves) – (Gate of Flesh) – (Our Blood Will Not Forgive) – (Story of a Prostitute) – (Story of Bastards: Born Under a Bad Star) – (Tattooed Life) – (Carmen from Kawachi) – Tokyo Drifter - (Fighting Elegy) – (A Tale of Sorrow and Sadness) – (Zigeunerweisen) – (Kagero-za) – (Capone Cries a Lot) – (Legend of the Gold of Babylon) – (Yumeji) – (Pistol Opera) – (Princess Raccoon)

© thevoid99 2019

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