The Most Terrible Time In My Life

1993, Movie, NR, 92 mins

Review

MOST TERRIBLE TIME IN MY LIFE, THE | WAGA JINSEI SAIAKU NO TOKI
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Far more than just another cheeky homage to film noir &#$151; specifically such tough-guy detective thrillers as Mickey Spillane's KISS ME DEADLY — this black-and-white beauty from Japanese director Kaizo Hayashi succeeds entirely on its own terms. Maiku Hama (Masatoshi Nagase, last seen in Jim Jarmusch's MYSTERY TRAIN) is a Yokohama private detective who specializes in finding missing persons, primarily among the city's many Chinese and Korean immigrants. One afternoon at a local mahjong parlor, Maiku rescues a young Taiwanese waiter named Yang (Yang Haitin) from a knife-wielding bully; in return, Yang hires Maiku to help find his brother who came to Japan two years ago but hasn't been heard from since. Maiku takes the case without realizing the Pandora's box he's about to pop open: Yang's brother is really a ruthless hit man who has defected from the Taiwanese Mafia and has joined the Black Dogs, a new and particularly brutal Japanese gang made up of naturalized immigrants. And Yang isn't just a smiling waiter: He's been sent to Japan to assassinate his brother, a killing that will inevitably spark a deadly gang war. Hayashi and cinematographer Yuichi Nagata have gotten the hard-boiled look and feel exactly right — the film is all oblique angles, low-key lighting and rain-slick streets — while thankfully dispensing with the brutal misogyny that spoils Spillane's books. That said, it's still full of sadistic, Spillane-style violence: Maiku loses a finger within the film's first five minutes, and an unfortunate Yakuza loses four of his digits 10 minutes later. But for all the references and po-mo nods, there's an honest element of tragedy to the tale, and the film has something serious to say about assimilation among people to whom heritage once meant something. The film was a huge success in Japan, spawning two sequels and making private investigation a popular career choice. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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