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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of loyalty and loss among the dispossessed
The first time I watched this film, when it ended, I immediately watched it again. On my third viewing recently, the plot began to make sense to me. On each viewing I enjoyed it more and took from the film another level of meaning, and I suspect it is good for many more viewings yet.
In Gonin, aka the Five, nothing is quite what it seems. The message seems to be -...
Published on 6 May 2003 by pottingshed

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
crap..s***
Published 4 months ago by maddrummer64


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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of loyalty and loss among the dispossessed, 6 May 2003
This review is from: Gonin [DVD] (DVD)
The first time I watched this film, when it ended, I immediately watched it again. On my third viewing recently, the plot began to make sense to me. On each viewing I enjoyed it more and took from the film another level of meaning, and I suspect it is good for many more viewings yet.
In Gonin, aka the Five, nothing is quite what it seems. The message seems to be - who deserves one’s loyalty? How can you judge?
Briefly, the plot revolves around the robbery of a Yakuza gang by an unlikely group of five men, and the aftermath. However a few words about some of the main characters may prove more informative on why this film is so special.
The “little man” in the regular suit, who used to be in a secure ordinary job until laid off after 20 years’ faithful, unremarkable service, turns out to be the most aggressive and uncontrolled of the group. He is currently living a lie, pretending each day to commute to work so as not to fail his family. It takes an apparently minor incident to set him on a dangerous, unknown path, but this was the last straw after his humiliation at work. Yet he remains impotent even as he expresses his rage in the fight that he picks - he is easily the loser and spends the rest of the film with a badly injured jaw. When his fists have failed him he resorts to a pathetic cry “I’ll sue you” - but we know that he won’t. He is looking for a life raft to cling on to.
Bandai, the night club owner and central character, appears on the surface to have it all - flash car, flash club, sharp suits - yet he is in the most serious danger and his empire will not survive without him.
The starkest example of “what you see is not what you get” comes in the shape of the mascared killer Mitsuyu, his pale feminised make up and wig masking his real self. He lurks in the night club, flick knife always at the ready. Yet he proves to be the most sensitive of the group in his shared love (sexual, brotherly - this is ambiguous) with Bandai.
Hizu, the cold, analytical corrupt ex-cop is a hard nosed survivor. He barely emotes. “Finger off the trigger” he orders the excitable salary man.
Family life offers no promise of security either. This film offers a neat twist to the Hollywood “love conquers all” cliché; the strongest romantic bonds lead only to torment.
Those that should be able to trust each other cannot, while the strongest bond of the five “gonin” emerges between those who should have every reason to hate each other. Perhaps one’s enemy is the only reliable one, as you know him best in his true colours. And as we see once Takeshi Kitano’s figure is introduced late in the film, we are more similar to our enemies than we expect, if we are all pawns subject to the same forces and fears.
Gonin is an unusual film in many ways. Unlike many gangster films, we get a sense of the contemporary Japan with its years of economic decline. And stylistically, the film is a real winner. Dream sequences and slow-motion are handled confidently and appropriately without in any way distracting from credibility. Colour and sound are used intelligently. Harsh, bleached out lighting evokes a sense of nightmare and strangeness. Nothing is clear, whether lit in extreme bright light, or under cover of mist as at the dockside scenes. At times the film reminded me, of all things, of the Shining - its sense of despair and fear among vast empty rooms. For example, you would expect the nightclub to be a hive of activity thronging with life, but we frequently see the cavernous corridors and stairwells where Bandai walks alone. In the club rooms, the electro pop bounces sharply off the walls, building an air of tension.

I heartily recommend this film. There are so many imaginative touches; only a desire not to give too much away prevents me from adding more praise. Buy it and enjoy many times.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tale of loyalty and loss among the dispossessed, 6 May 2003
This review is from: Gonin [DVD] (DVD)
The first time I watched this film, when it ended, I immediately watched it again. On my third viewing recently, the plot began to make sense to me. On each viewing I enjoyed it more and took from the film another level of meaning, and I suspect it is good for many more viewings yet.
In Gonin, aka the Five, nothing is quite what it seems. The message seems to be - who deserves one’s loyalty? How can you judge?
Briefly, the plot revolves around the robbery of a Yakuza gang by an unlikely group of five men, and the aftermath. However a few words about some of the main characters may prove more informative on why this film is so special.
The “little man” in the regular suit, who used to be in a secure ordinary job until laid off after 20 years’ faithful, unremarkable service, turns out to be the most aggressive and uncontrolled of the group. He is currently living a lie, pretending each day to commute to work so as not to fail his family. It takes an apparently minor incident to set him on a dangerous, unknown path, but this was the last straw after his humiliation at work. Yet he remains impotent even as he expresses his rage in the fight that he picks - he is easily the loser and spends the rest of the film with a badly injured jaw. When his fists have failed him he resorts to a pathetic cry “I’ll sue you” - but we know that he won’t. He is looking for a life raft to cling on to.
Bandai, the night club owner and central character, appears on the surface to have it all - flash car, flash club, sharp suits - yet he is in the most serious danger and his empire will not survive without him.
The starkest example of “what you see is not what you get” comes in the shape of the mascared killer Mitsuyu, his pale feminised make up and wig masking his real self. He lurks in the night club, flick knife always at the ready. Yet he proves to be the most sensitive of the group in his shared love (sexual, brotherly - this is ambiguous) with Bandai.
Hizu, the cold, analytical corrupt ex-cop is a hard nosed survivor. He barely emotes. “Finger off the trigger” he orders the excitable salary man.
Family life offers no promise of security either. This film offers a neat twist to the Hollywood “love conquers all” cliché; the strongest romantic bonds lead only to torment.
Those that should be able to trust each other cannot, while the strongest bond of the five “gonin” emerges between those who should have every reason to hate each other. Perhaps one’s enemy is the only reliable one, as you know him best in his true colours. And as we see once Takeshi Kitano’s figure is introduced late in the film, we are more similar to our enemies than we expect, if we are all pawns subject to the same forces and fears.
Gonin is an unusual film in many ways. Unlike many gangster films, we get a sense of the contemporary Japan with its years of economic decline. And stylistically, the film is a real winner. Dream sequences and slow-motion are handled confidently and appropriately without in any way distracting from credibility. Colour and sound are used intelligently. Harsh, bleached out lighting evokes a sense of nightmare and strangeness. Nothing is clear, whether lit in extreme bright light, or under cover of mist as at the dockside scenes. At times the film reminded me, of all things, of the Shining - its sense of despair and fear among vast empty rooms. For example, you would expect the nightclub to be a hive of activity thronging with life, but we frequently see the cavernous corridors and stairwells where Bandai walks alone. In the club rooms, the electro pop bounces sharply off the walls, building an air of tension.

I heartily recommend this film. There are so many imaginative touches; only a desire not to give too much away prevents me from adding more praise. Buy it and enjoy many times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Taste the Flesh, 25 Dec 2011
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Gonin [DVD] (DVD)
Another bleak amoral tale of a society in desperate financial trouble, and this was in the 90's. Sex Workers from Thailand, corrupt police officers, salary men beyond despair, after losing their job but still pretending they were going into the office, flash singers living a lie beyond their means and a trans-sexual who hates "queers." Then there is the other side, all big men involved in ritual humiliation, hard, tough masculine; without a woman between them. They all epitomise a hard on sexuality, where as we learn, male rape is a norm within a credo of power.

The story is the standard revenge yarn, but this is Japan, it twists, turns and bites back like no western bleary eyed, "love me" fable. This is Nipon, harsh uncompromising nihilism, echoing the grey skies and torrential rain, lightening the pallor of the compressed cities. When the neon lights, like a pair of red ruby painted lips, light up the face with tantalising dreams in the night, they disappears in the morning, as the wallet pays for the fuller reality.

Dreams of something beyond what is being offered, are what hold these men together. The belief in a better life, makes the russian roulette gamble seem duly appropriate. Life and happiness, is a mirage, this seems to be the underlying message. The connections between the men echo the message as it ripples out between them. They are all enmeshed in a hyper masculine gay world of minimal emotional connection.

Shot in the outer worlds of sumptuous night clubs, docks and garages of gangsta land, this has a high body blood count. It has no same sex buddy message, except for some brief male love moments, whilst meanwhile the connection between sex working and dreams of escape, linger. It has no inter racial bonds.

As for the other messages, they lie embedded within the plot and cannot be given away without revealing the structure. However, although the basis of the plot is standard, the "execution" is anything but, from dream sequences, flashbacks, surreal/ghost shots, to the hail of bullets.

It is more than gangsta, it is a bitter ironic take on a world that has sold its individual soul to consumerism, a sexual tissue of disposable lies and consumate fakery. This takes a swift sword to the mirage, and chops it into bite sized pieces.

Too bad people consume it without tasting and savouring the living flesh it portrays.
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5.0 out of 5 stars cant beat a good Yakuza film, 6 Nov 2014
By 
E. Reay - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gonin [DVD] (DVD)
Takeshi Kitano is awesome in this, cant beat a good Yakuza crime film amazing film
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1.0 out of 5 stars One Star, 31 July 2014
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This review is from: Gonin [DVD] (DVD)
crap..s***
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ishii Takashi's brilliant Yakuza eiga., 20 April 2003
This review is from: Gonin [DVD] (DVD)
Ishii Takashi is perhaps one of the most famous contemporary Japanese filmmakers working today. It is rather ironic that his films in Japan are straight to video ventures, but are well respected all over Europe.
Gonin is a classic example of taking an old concept (the heist gone wrong movie) and twisting it , Japanese style. The story could not be any simpler: Five losers all decide to rob the office of a Yakuza gang. One of them is played by Kitano Takeshi, who dons a patch on his eye throughout the film and is also a violent homosexual.
The film has some very graphic violence in it and is not one to watch with your girlfriend. It has no similarities to any other of Ishii's films, which is very good.
There is only one problem with the UK release of this film: Why is Takeshi on the front cover? He only has a cameo in the film, but our friends at Tokyo Bullet want to rake in on the success of Kitano's fame. The extras are your basic stuff, such as trailers, biogs/filmogs. It is a pleasure to see the film on dvd. All of Ishii's films are very dark anyhow. Buy this if you want to see an excellent Yakuza film, but not if you expect to see a Takeshi film. A brilliant film, nonetheless.
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2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gonin, 7 Feb 2003
This review is from: Gonin [DVD] (DVD)
The story is a genre staple - five men who have suffered at the hands of Japan's mafia, the Yazuka, plot their revenge by knocking over the bad guy HQ. They figure that if they wear masks the gangsters won't be able to trace them or the missing cash. Of course they're wrong, and once they're identified it's open season on armed robbers. The yazuka send for hit man Takeshi Kitano, and after much gunplay it's down to who's going to be the last man standing. Veteran director Isho puts a slick gloss on the proceedings, and the result is more Hollywood than Japan.
If you're a Westerner a major reason for watching this film is probably the acting presence of cult actor/director Kitano, the coolest man in Japan, and maybe the world, and star of a string of brilliant genre-based movies, such as Sonatine and Violent Cop. Although arriving late in the film, Kitano does not disappoint. Look out for the shoot-out in the middle of a downpour, where Kitano manages to hold an umbrella aloft with one hand while gunning down everyone in sight with the other. Clearly a man who cares about his tailoring.
As they might say at Amazon, if you liked Sonatine and Violent Cop you'll be sure to like Gonin.
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Gonin [DVD]
Gonin [DVD] by Takashi Ishii (DVD - 2001)
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