t's difficult to say why writer/director Takashi
Me") decided to do a sequel to "Gonin".
While the original was a hit, moviegoers weren't exactly rioting in the
streets for a sequel, so the idea is probably as wise as letting Eminem
grand marshal a Gay Pride parade. But one was made anyway, and basically
it's an awful mess.
We meet Masamichi (Ken Ogata), a loving husband and
decent man, save for his bad gambling problem. When he and his wife arrive
home one evening, they find the yakuza waiting for them. When Masamichi is
unable to satisfy his debt, the gangsters mercilessly rape his wife while
he watches helplessly. After she commits suicide due to the shame,
Masamichi makes a sword and heads out for revenge. Masamichi's crusade
leads him to a gang of tough female thieves who have foiled a yakuza
robbery and kept the loot for themselves. But they've also taken the ring
Masamichi wanted; will he join with them against the brutal yakuza, or
exterminate the girls himself?
The most sympathetic performance in "Gonin 2" is by Ken Ogata as
the vengeful Masamichi Toyama. You can empathize with his feelings of rage
and shame at what was done to the woman he loves, and his quest doesn't
just involve massacring the yakuza, it's also to avenge the honor of his
dead wife. His intentions and mission are noble in spirit, and he is a
presented as a truly likeable character. Sadly, he's never the true focus
of the film, and he's really wasted here. If his character had been the
central focus of "Gonin 2", this would have been a much better
For the sequel, Ishii decided to change the gender of the bandits from
male to female, probably trying to capitalize on the "Thelma and
Louise" plot slant while giving male viewers some eye candy at the
same time. The sex change doesn't really make much of an impact, and the
women have little individuality and are essentially minor variations on
the same concept with little character history.
As a director, Ishii manages some nice visual shots, but why is it always
dark and raining? While probably done to enhance the bleak tone, it also
makes "Gonin 2" needlessly dreary to watch. In-between the
brutal dealings onscreen and the gloomy atmosphere, the film is simply
hard to sit through. There's no art or style to it, just brutality for the
sake of exploitative brutality.
Not that Ishii's script is anything to write home about either. It's
gratuitously gory and graphically violent in a needless fashion. Violent
films can be great if well done, but Ishii apparently still hasn't gotten
the knack, and should stick to the less is more routine. This is
especially true in the scene where Toyama's wife is raped; there's really
no need to go into detail. Alex Proyas handled a similar scene in "The
Crow" that while brief, still made an emotional impact. Ishii
should rent Proyas' film before attempting a scene like this again.
While "Gonin 2" isn't bad enough to make you want to gouge out
your short-term memory, it certainly isn't good. Fans of pseudo-stylized
imports and overly violent movie buffs will no doubt find this to be a
rather diverting 107 minutes. But anyone else looking for a good action
film that is both well written and directed can look elsewhere.