Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on December 2011

© 2011「ハードロマンチッカー」製作委員会

This hard-boiled thriller is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of Korean-Japanese Gu Su-yeon, who also directs. It revolves around his gang experiences in the rough-and-tumble town of Shimonoseki on the southwestern tip on Honshu. We know we’re in for violent ride when the film starts with two petty hoods breaking into a house and beating to death a person they think is a rival gang member. When the camera pulls back we see they’ve killed an old woman. Gu (Shota Matsuda) is only distantly involved in this brutality and is fact not a gangbanger but must deal with them on daily basis. Despite this, his take-no-prisoners attitude and occasional attempts to help those victimized by toughs earns him too many enemies. After numerous bone-crunchers he must retreat to Kitakyushu and manage a yakuza hostess club. The film sets up many intriguing plot lines, including a detective (Atsuro Watabe) harassing Gu, his new life in a different city, and the fate of a high school girl he likes. Unfortunately the ending is so lame all the considerable momentum is lost and one feels cheated for actually being invested in Gu’s troubles. (108 min)