Bar open: 7PM
Trailers & shorts: 7:40PM
Main feature: 8PM
1995 / 111 min / R18 Violence
Director: Takashi Ishii
Cast: Kôichi Satô, Masahiro Motoki, Jinpachi Nezu
'It's what you call 'Japanese Kindness' ''
Ugly things beautifully presented.
Takashi Ishii's Gonin tells the story of five men, each desperate for quick cash, who decide to rob a yakuza office; they botch the heist and quickly find themselves hounded by the syndicate's attack-dogs.
It's far from original, but that's kind of the point.
With Gonin, Takashi Ishii has taken a well-worn yakuza narrative, distilled it down into its most archetypal form, and turned it into something close to modern mythology.
This mythologising is most clearly visible in Takashi Ishii's vision of Japan as a lascivious pulp dreamscape. It's a Japan of neon lights, fluorescent tubes, heavy rain, chain-link fences, and almost perpetual nighttime.
A Japan of cold concrete, and hot, wet blood.
A Japan of nightclubs, gay trysts, and torture.
It's totally unreal, but it perfectly captures an atmosphere of fantasy Japan—somewhere between gritty realism and ultra-exaggerated V-cinema kitsch.
It's almost magical in a grim kind of way.
Beyond the film's aesthetic, Gonin's attention to detail is just as striking. Nothing is ignored. Every moment, however seemingly insignificant, ends up rippling out believably.
Even throwaway background elements in the film's first few minutes have natural, believable consequences over an hour later.
Many of these moments don't affect the plot in any significant way, but that only makes them feel more real. They're these wonderful little logical consistencies that make the world feel tangible and lived-in. And they really make it clear that Takashi Ishii poured a lot of love into this film.
As did everyone else involved. The performances are incredible across the board.
Takeshi Kitano, as expected, absolutely kills.
And Kippei Shiina, as Jimmy - a bleach-blonde perpetual f*ck-up with a heart of gold - is captivating in the way that only Kippei Shiina can be.
Masahiro Motoki (Mitsuya) and Koichi Sato (Bandai) are also fantastic.
It’s criminal that Gonin hasn't become a cult-film in the West. All of the ingredients are present: it's stylish in the extreme, it has set-pieces that are both impressive and incredibly strange, its violence is masterful, it's ultra-melodramatic, it stars some of Japan's great cult actors...
And yet, tragically, the film seems to have been largely ignored outside of its home nation.
A weird, bleak, grisly vision of a purely cinematic Japan. Gonin is something totally unique, and something truly special.
If any film deserves a cult renaissance, Gonin is it.