Decline of an Assassin / 野良犬はダンスを踊る / NORAINU HA DANSU WO ODORU (2015)
Director : Shoji Kubota
Screenwriter : Shoji Kubota
Cinematographer : Hiromitu Nishimura
Editor : Shiji Kubota
Cast : Yoshimasa Kondo, Keisuke Kato, Shogo Suzuki, Hidetoshi Kubota, Yuri Yanagi, Kouta Kusano
Music : Ipeei Yogo
Note: According to this blog the earlier screening was rescheduled to Saturday, September 5 @ 9:30pm in Quartier Latin cinema 11. (I haven’t verified myself)
This film focuses on Muneyuki, a 50 something year old hitman who’s starting to feel his age when a routine hit becomes uncharacteristically messy by his own high and clean standards. He has two younger men who help him in his hits, usually acting as “babysitters” who clean up after the hit is done. He also frequents a hostess club to see his favorite girl, Miori, whom starts taking an interest in him after a falling out with her boyfriend who also works at the hostess club. He decides to retire but circumstances beyond his control pull him back into the hitman’s life.
The film starts out with a pretty graphic and striking scene. I won’t reveal what it is but it sets the tone for the film even if the rest of the film is ironically less bloody than that initial scene. The picture is very noisy and this seems to be an intentional choice. The majority of scenes are shrouded in darkness, whether it be outside on the streets and in the alleys where the neon lights glow in a blurry haze or inside seedy bars and clubs where you can barely even see half a person’s face at times. Shadows are everywhere in this film and even the day time scenes are quite drab and muted, often looking very grey and blue. This works for the film making it feel like a much older film than it really is, one that could be characterized as a film noir from the past. There are some pretty distinct music tracks that are played more than once and effectively compliment their scenes.
The acting is serious and not exaggerated. I’m not familiar with Yoshimasa Kondo but he convincingly portrays Muneyuki is an efficiently cold killer and a professional. He leads a lonely and glamorous life because he believes in blending in. Standing out is not a good thing for a hitman. Although he does have a human target board in his apartment, perhaps meant as a bit of irony or juxtaposition. His emotions are always kept in check on the job but there are moments where he unleashes his emotion, in particular in a couple of sex scenes that are explicit (female nudity). It’s a bit of a stretch that a young and beautiful Miori (the top girl at the hostess club) would fall for him but there’s reasoning behind it. The characters aren’t really delved into deeply but the acting sells you on their inner turmoils. It shows the domino effect of violence from the boss down to the lower workers. It is somewhat disappointing that Muneyuki’s concern with his aging gets dropped by the ending. Otherwise, I really enjoyed this moderately paced crime film. It’s a story that’s small in scope and might be slow for some but it makes it feel grounded and believable.
If you understand Japanese, you might be better off skipping the trailer. Without understanding the dialogue, at least to me, having seen the film already it seems to possibly spoil some parts of it.
I only just found the trailer today (courtesy of this blog) after watching the film and it looks strangely a lot sharper than the film I saw in the theatre. Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me (but I just saw it a day ago).