Gonin | Chicago Reader

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Director Takashi Ishii used to illustrate manga—hyperrealistic, action-packed Japanese comics—and he brings a cartoonish disregard for plausibility to this ultraviolent 1995 gangland fantasia, in which a disco owner recruits four misfits to rob a powerful mob boss. Through Ishii?s lens the urban, postboom Japan of the 90s becomes a nihilistic wasteland populated by sociopathic losers and mob henchmen who are now part of the status quo. He also spells out the homoerotic subtext of the male-bonding action flick, with Takeshi “Beat” Kitano (director of Fireworks) playing a stoic hit man whose brutality and homosexuality have grown from a childhood trauma. The thieves suffer gruesome and prolonged punishments, as if they need to answer for their rebelliousness before their newfound camaraderie can redeem them in the end. Unlike John Woo, Ishii can?t transcend the camp and pathos of his material, but his imaginative use of rain-drenched neon colors provides some cosmetic satisfaction.

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