Gonin (the Five)

on August 01, 2008 by Karen Achenbach
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   A young nightclub owner, Bandai (Koichi Sato), decides to rob the Yakuza gang to whom he owes a large debt. He pulls together four other "misfits" to help him: a gay clubgoer, an ex-cop, a blonde pimp who was once part of the gang, and an unstable ex-businessman (Naoto Takenaka of "Shall We Dance?"). After the robbery, "Gonin," which means "The Five", reveals more about each of the five as they are tracked by a duo of gay hit men led by Takeshi "Beat" Kitano.
   Beautifully composed, the film's frequent wide-angle shots of handsome sets in cool desaturated blues and greens with some saturated red/orange highlights produce a look like panels in a neo-noir comic magazine. Ishii spent close to 25 years as a manga (comic book) artist, and has here created a very stylized piece of work. But though it contains tracking shots and briskly edited pieces, the film feels still because its style serves no substance. While "Gonin" might be stunning aesthetically, its characters are single drops that never merge to create something bigger. Though they go through some motions of revenge, reconciliation and self-preservation, their efforts are small, and their scenes together do not accumulate meaning to their relationships. Because of this, their struggles go almost unwitnessed by the audience, leaving us apathetic. The exception is the blonde pimp, (Kippei Shiina) whose concern for his girlfriend is planted, built up, and paid off. He alone tugs a reaction from viewers.    Starring Koichi Sato, Takeshi "Beat" Kitano and Masahiro Motoki. Directed and written by Takashi Ishii. Produced by Kanji Miura, Taketo Niitsu and Katsuhide Motoki. A Phaedra release. Action/drama. Japanese language; English subtitles. Unrated. Running time: 109 min.
Tags: Beat, tarring Koichi Sato, Takeshi Kitano, Masahiro Motoki, Directed and written by Takashi Ishii, Produced by Kanji Miura, Taketo Niitsu, Katsuhide Motoki, Phaedra, Action, drama
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