by Jason Suzuki
The second film in Arrow Video’s recent double helping of Yasuharu Hasebe, Retaliation was released a year after Massacre Gun and also features Jo Shishido, this time in more of a supporting role. The lead this time is Akira Kobayashi and what follows is a bromance hidden underneath all the wild shot compositions, the unsentimental gangster violence, and an early appearance from Meiko Kaji when she went under Masako Ota. Shishido’s role might be too minor for fans of his but every scene he is in he brings his usual off beat charisma, something that I personally find Kobayashi to be lacking in despite his bigger star power. The plot follows Kobayashi as a man recently released from jail, doing his time for the murder of Shishido’s brother. Shishido promises to get revenge but in the meantime will help Kobayashi start a turf war between two gangs over some farm land for a third party, if only to speed things up with the land takeover so he can get back to trying to kill Kobayashi. The camaraderie that develops between the two is surprising, especially when Shishido utters “I love you” to Kobayashi.
Coupled with their release of Hasebe’s previous film Massacre Gun, the special features not only supplement the films but also each other. Just like Massacre Gun there is an interview with star Jo Shishido and a video featuring Tony Rayns discussing the films and the industry context behind them. On this release Rayns goes into detail on Hasebe, Shishido, and the way Nikkatsu functioned. There is so much great info from this video with Rayns, for instance that whether a film was to be shot in black and white or in color was determined by who was starring in it and whether this star was part of the “golden five.” While Rayns’ overview of the history of Nikkatsu found on Massacre Gun’s disc is essential, this video is essential to both of these films. The interview with Shishido on this disc I found to be much more entertaining as he is able to recall certain anecdotes and talks about getting the implants in his cheeks removed, having it filmed, and unfortunately losing the footage in a fire.
There has been a drought of Japanese films released in HD with great supplements, Criterion has released a few HD upgrades the past two years (five I think), their last new Blu-ray release was the Zatoichi set in November of 2013. Since their coming to the US Arrow Video has so far released Blind Woman’s Curse and these two Hasebe films. They not only have Miike’s The Happiness of the Katakuris coming with loads of bonus materials but are also bringing over their awesome set of the Stray Cat Rock films. If they keep this up we can look forward to more Japanese gems getting these deserving treatments. Retaliation is being released in a limited edition Blu-ray/DVD of 3000 copies so make sure you get one if you’re interested in the film or the mini Japanese film history lecture by Tony Rayns.
Jason Suzuki is co-editor to Cinema Adrift.