Gosha’s 1991 “Kagerô”/“Heat Wave”

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“Kagerô” (Heat Wave, directed by Gosha Hideo [Sword of the Beast, Goyokin], 1991) seemed more like a Chinese (Li Gong) movie than a Japanese one, despite the extensive yakusa tattoos, the décor, the clothes, and the high-stakes games of hanafuda (flower cards, of which there are six). Rin (Higuchi Kaneko) does not show excitement while gambling (in contrast to the thrill-seeking Saeko [Kaga Mariko] in “Pale Flower”) and her face does not show any emotion any time (she does cry). She saw her father be fatally knifed for cheating, and rescues her brother (by her adoption by his parents who owned a restaurant), Ichitaro (Motoki Masahiro, later the protagonist of “Departures”) who has lost the restaurant and owes 300 yen to some yakusa.

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The middle of the movie is a long match with “Tsune[jiro] the Immoveable” (Nakadai Tatsuya, who can remain coiled a long time, as he memorably showed in “Harakiri”). Rin (with the backing of a boss on Kyushu to secure coal rights) is trying to win enough money to win back the restaurant that the vicious ganglord Otaki (Hakuryû) got from Ichitaro and is run by one of his mistresses

Eventually, all hell breaks loose and the two fight together in a protracted battle in the palatial restaurant. The movie is graphically violent enough to be Korean. Higuchi Kaneko is very good at being still and looking beautiful, but doesn’t have enough charisma to carry the movie with its cartoonish villains and besotted young lovers.

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

 

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