Five men, each teetering on the brink of collapse, all decide to take on the Yakuza in one final desperate attempt to save their dignity. The five plan and execute a successful raid on a Yakuza headquarters, getting away with nearly a hundred million yen. But the Yakuza know how to deal with such upstarts, and soon have an assassin (Takeshi 'Beat' Kitano) on their trail, picking them off one by one, without pity and without remorse.
Takashi Ishii's visually sumptuous gangster movie Gonin
("The Five") is fascinating in its violence, its perversity and its quirkiness, even though its basic plot premise is fairly standard. Disco owner Bandai (Kouichi Sato) owes money to the yakuza boss Ogoshi and decides to rob him rather than pay him--the first part of the film shows him recruiting a crew of the damaged and despairing to help with the job, and disaster follows. Ogoshi hires the more or less unstoppable one-eyed hit man Kyoya ("Beat" Takeshi) and everyone ends up dead--robbers, gangsters and assassins--in an escalating sequence of reprisals. What is different about the film is the odd tangents the plot shoots off at--the sudden sexual attraction between Bandai and the con-man Mitsuya, the truth about the phone calls the desperate sacked salary man Ogiwara keeps making to his family--and its strong visual style. Crucial events take place in the background of shots, the sudden shift from neon-lit back al! leys to sunlight in the last sequence hits you like a blow in the face. Terrifying in its casual violence and impressive in its bleak nihilism, Gonin
is one of the most interesting genre films of the 1990s.--Roz Kaveney