[director Takashi Ishii]
It starts as a tense thriller. Five men, downsized and compromised by the Asian economic crisis band together to rob and humiliate the yakuza loan-sharks that had them under their foot. Takashi Ishii plays out these characters well, using mood and atmosphere to great effect.
Then there is an unexpected twist. One of the men, a vamp who frequents clubs to pick up and extort money from gay men, is seduced by the leader of their group. Then the yakuza hitman who goes after them once the robbery goes down seduces his own partner. Freudian slip-ups abound.
The movie ends with a sadistic joke. The last man alive on either side end up shooting one another in a bus and then sitting down next to one another to die. As the smoke from all the violence clears, the ruthless hitman exclaims to the robber, “I’m tired.” Then the bus starts and they drive through picturesque countryside as they both bleed to death.
Takashi Ishii’s best-known movie is good in parts, but there seems to be a substantial amount of connective tissue that is missing. Connections between many events are unclear, including the very muddled leak that puts the yakuza onto the track of the well-disguised robbers. There are many good performances (including a chilling one by comedian/director “Beat” Takeshi), and many beautifully-realized scenes. But the film just doesn’t hold together too well. It’s a shame, because this unprecedented thriller could have been an absolute classic.