Takashi Ishii may be to movies what Ian Schrager is to hotels. So stylish it hurts, but not everything works as it should.
Gonin is a bit hard to follow at first but I found my powers of concentration bucked up in the second hour once the mood had switched to the kind of acute terror found rarely these days even in card-carrying horror movies.
Five individuals, as oddly suited to each other's company as Big Brother housemates, decide to break into the local Yakuza HQ and make off the contents of the safe. The leader of the gang, a gay nightclub owner, is motivated by a desire to repay his debt to the very same mobsters! (For some reason he thinks the Yakuza will be less pissed off with them if they don't actually kill or maim any goons during this raid.)
The story moves from heist to horror as we watch how the five (gonin means five people in Japanese, I can now proudly observe) are systematically stalked and eliminated by Beat Takeshi's impassive nettoyer, who gratifes himself after a killing by sodomising his own brother.
The action takes place in a dystopic Osaka where the criminal underworld appears to be located quite literally in Hades. "Not a feel-good movie", one critic has observed.
Ishii spent 25 years creating manga before turning to cinema, and he does seem to have a comic artist's approach to character. It takes too long for some of the key protagonists to take shape and in several cases you find yourself realising too late that they were actually worth taking a real interest in.