POSTMAN BLUES (Posutoman Burusu)

(director/writer: Sabu; cinematographer: Shuji Kuriyama; editor: Shuichi Kakesu; cast: Shinichi Tsutsumi (Ryuichi Sawaki), Osugi Ren (Hit Man Joe), Keisuke Horibe (Noguchi), Toyama Kyoko (Kyoko), Susumu Terajima (Detective Maeda), Tomoro Taguchi (Profiler), Shimizu Hiroshi (Detective Domon); Runtime: 110; F.T.B., Suplex/Nikkatsu; 1997-Japan)

“A parody of other gangster films.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A parody of other gangster films that suffers from a bad case of hapless comedy. It might be funny to someone in Japan, but does not have a universal appeal. It is a parody of how the yakuza is portrayed in Kitano films and it also pays homage to many other gangster films from around the world, including France’s “Diva.” It tries to take dramatic situations that occurred in those films and apply them out of context.

A postman named Sawaki (Tsutsumi) delivers mail to his old high school friend Noguchi (Horibe), someone he hasn’t seen for years. Noguchi has become a low-level yakuza with dreams of becoming infamous. He just cut off his pinky to give to his yakuza boss for screwing up a drug deal. Sawaki when asked about his work, just feels his job is dull. Noguchi asks him, “Does your heart ever thump with excitement like it did when you were a kid?”

The police have Noguchi under surveillance and since the postman went into the yakuza’s apartment, they assume he is working for the gangster as a messenger and thereby put a tail on him. This leads to a comedy of mistaken identity as Sawaki is taken for a drug-runner. When Sawaki delivers mail in a hospital and talks with the cancer victim Hit Man Joe (Ren), the police think he is involved in an insurance scam. Later they think he a terrorist bomber because he is always delivering packages; and finally, they bring in a criminal profiler, and Sawaki is classified as being a serial homicidal psychopath. By searching his apartment and finding a severed finger, which Sawaki took by mistake from his friend’s apartment, the cops from this Special Task Force surveillance team become convinced that he is a serial killer connected with the Minato Gang. The cops are shown to be bumbling idiots, while the yakuzas are clich├ęd figures imitating how they are portrayed in films. Film buffs will spot a wide variety of gangster films used by the director Sabu as a source for the levity.

A conventional soap opera romance is thrown into the mix, as the kindly mailman not only meets Hit Man Joe at the hospital but a beautiful young lady called Kyoto. She has a terminal case of cancer. The two dream that they are lovers. While Hit Man Joe dreams that he can win a ‘Hit Man Killer of Killers’ competition, but he is worried they will disqualify him for health reasons.

The film’s conclusion is a mixture of madcap comedy and an attempt to give meaning to all the lives of the dreamers who befriended Sawaki. The postman is racing on his bike to meet Kyoto at the hospital, while the Special Task Force under detective Domon’s direction have high-tech computer graphics to follow the suspect and roadblocks are put into place to deter him. They are poised to shoot Sawaki first and ask questions later. Hit Man Joe and Noguchi are shown to have more feelings than the police and go by bike to aid their unsuspecting friend from the danger he is in, trying to tell the police they got the wrong man. Sabu reveals his pessimistic opinion of society, by having the innocent postman put through such an ordeal over nothing.

Humor is subjective, you can’t convince anyone that something was funny when they aren’t laughing—I wasn’t laughing. Otherwise, I found the film to be pleasantly stylish, shot in an outpouring of pleasing shades of mellow brown and blue-gray.

REVIEWED ON 10/24/2000 GRADE: C-