Hissatsu! (Japan 1984)

Rating: **
Alternate Title: Sure Death! (American release)
Review Date: 8/4/01

There's a lot of history going on in this film that I didn't know about prior to watching it. The film is basically a celebration of the 600th episode of a popular Japanese TV series that started running in 1972. As such, if you're not familiar with the characters or the premise, then the film will seem unnecessarily confusing. Apparently, the assassin business is booming in ancient Edo. An unassuming constable named Nakamura Mondo heads up a secret group of professional killers who all have a uniquely bizarre special killing technique. For instance, one man kills people with sharpened roof tiles, someone else uses a razor sharp fan, another prefers using a Shamisen pick, and so on. (sort of like the unorthodox weapons used by the girls of "Sukeban Deka") It turns out that there's a super assassin known as the Six-mon Man who wants to be Edo's sole assassin, and he starts killing off the competition. Mondo and his eccentric band of oddities finally track him down and take him on.

Unfortunately, the film is about an hour too long and crawls along at a snail's pace. The plot is a muddled mess that simply strings together a bunch of events that only loosely relate to the Six-mon Man. Story threads seem to just come and go until the last forty minutes when everyone gets together for the final showdown. Definitely a bizarre show that loses a lot in translation and doesn't stand well on its own. The sit-com humor is forced and unfunny, and the film boasts a bunch of strange historical anachronisms (including a submarine as an escape vehicle). This is probably intentionally campy in a "Wild, Wild West" sort of way, but it doesn't quite seem to work. The spaghetti western musical score is also an offbeat touch. A well made and nice looking production that mainly suffers from being tedious and uninteresting.