THE LOVED GUN
Director Kensaku Watanabe made his debut in 1998 with "PuuPuu no Monogatari (The Story of PuPu)", (starring Sakura Uehara, Reiko Matsuo), which appeared in the progressive Little More Movies* Series. Watanabe was seen as the "next Sijun Suzuki" for this controversial adventure story of two "off-kilter" girls, which elicited strong mixed reviews. Five years later, he has delivered this anticipated work, "The Loved Gun".
(*Little More Movies: a joint project between Theatre Shinjuku and Little More, which promoted four movies a year by up-and-coming directors. This acclaimed series includes films such as "PORNSTAR" directed by Toshiaki Toyoda.)
Kensaku Watanabe's "The Loved Gun" is an emotionally charged drama of men bound in complex human relationships, which in turn, triggers a young girl's deliverance from the depths of despair. It is a story of love.
"The Loved Gun" features Hayamada, a roving hit man seeking revenge for the brutal murder of his parents. Along his search, he encounters the young Miyuki, who is also struggling to cope with the recent death of her parents. Hayamada is pursued by his foster father, Maruyama, an aged hit man, and his young gangster cohort, Taneda. Meanwhile, Miyuki seeks closure to her implacable grief and hires Hayamada for a "job".
A foster parent and son need to settle past scores. A young girl needs to reclaim her future. A young man has only his future to cling to. A colored gun holds the key...
Director Kensaku Watanabe weaves the universal themes of "Life", "Death" and "Love" into this unconventional fantasy setting. He remains faithful to his concept of "fantasy" and does not retreat to typical cliched or judgmental precepts.This original story written by the director manifests the cinematic freedom, force and precision not often found in adapted screenplays.
Rising star Masatoshi Nagase plays the compassionate hit man, Hayamada, who exudes the dark persona of the withdrawn protagonist. He will also appear shortly in "Kakushi Ken, Oni no Tsume" directed by Yoji Yamada.
Aoi Miyazaki from "Eureka" and "Gaichu" appears as Miyuki, the young girl who overcomes her tragic past through her encounter with Hayamada. Miyazaki brilliantly exhibits a subtle mix of the unstable emotions of a young girl and the strengths and frailties of a mature woman.
Ittoku Kishibe appears as Maruyama, the terminally ill hit man whose final assignment is to kill his own foster son. Famous for his uniquely aloof demeanor, he is still fresh in our minds from his recent appearances in "Zatoichi" and "Geroppa!"
The young gangster Taneda is played by Hirofumi Arai, who has appeared in "Aoi Haru (Blue Spring)", "GO" and "Joze to Tora to Sakana-tachi". Arai vividly portrays a hoodlum trying desperately to be "bad", while slowly developing a fondness and respect for his mentor, Maruyama.
In the end, Maruyama and Hayamada settle their scores. What do the young Taneda and Miyuki learn from their fate? And where are they headed, on their bike, arm raised high?
Is it already dawn? There is no one in sight on the lonely ocean road. A white truck charges past at high speed, then crashes into a vending machine. A man lurches out of the driver's seat, his forehead bloody. He, Hayamada grabs a frozen fish out of the back of his truck and ices his wound.
A flower field. An aging man, the leader of the Kadowaki clan, falls to the ground mumbling "Kill Hayamada"
A group of Kadowaki clansmen pay a visit to Maruyama who is sweeping the temple grounds. They have a "job" for him. On the honor of the Kadowaki clan, Hayamada must be killed. Maruyama has seen this coming. A young gangster, Taneda, is given to Maruyama to assist him.
"Please discipline him".
The impulsive Taneda feigns boldness, but at gunpoint, his composure crumbles. He begs for a gun of his own, but shoots it off accidentally when Maruyama sneezes.
A lesson in enlightenment is given by Maruyama:
"A bullet changes color according to the emotions of the shooter. If he is emotionless, the bullet remains its natural metallic color. A sad man shoots blue. A vengeful man shoots black. A coward shoots yellow."
Taneda's bullet was yellow. He throws down his gun in frustration, and is swiftly thrashed by Maruyama.
"A gun demands respect".
The discipline has already begun. Taneda, shaking with contempt, sparks a mild interest in Maruyama. And the two set off on their quest.
Miyuki informs her teacher that she is dropping out of High School. The teacher tries to stop her, but Miyuki's mind is set.
"I have to look after myself now. I have to make my own living..."
Her parents are both dead. Her father killed her mother, then set themselves on fire. Their bodies were charred beyond recognition. With her teacher's kind words and some grapes as a farewell gift, Miyuki speeds away as if to escape from her own sorrow.
When she restarts her engine after a brief stop at a riverbank, a stranger grabs her hand. It is Hayamada, who wants to borrow her scooter. Miyuki refuses, and a red gun is pointed at her. The gun is named Akira. Miyuki asks him to shoot her in the heart. Taken aback, Hayamada staggers to the ground.
Miyuki takes Hayamada to a hospital where she knows a doctor named Hasegawa. Hasegawa obsessively dotes on Miyuki, but she brushes him off. His perverse behavior escalates until Hayamada rescues her from a dangerous situation the doctor calls "treatment". Miyuki opens up slowly to Hayamada and begins telling her tale. And she hires him for a "job".
"Kill my father's lover".
Maruyama and Taneda gradually develop a mutual understanding of one another. Taneda worries about Maruyama, whose cancer ridden body deteriorates daily. Maruyama tells Taneda story after story, as if to instill something in him...to explain Hayamada's motives.
Hayamada's parents were killed when he was a child. He didn't know until recently that Kadowaki killed his mother and Maruyama killed his father, and that his father was Maruyama's protege. The orphaned Hayamada was raised by Maruyama who loved him like his own son, but Hayamada, traumatized by his parents' death, was driven to neurosis. He began to swallow everything from candles, incense to bullets!
Miyuki and Hayamada ponder as they head for the forest,
"If you had to be killed by someone, who would it be?"
"I would want to be killed by someone who really hated me."
Miyuki has already reached a conclusion of her own. The burned remains of a car lies abandoned in the forest, where they wait for the inevitable showdown. The legendary red bullet is about to make its appearance...