Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 17th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 2011
Director: Su-yeon Gu
Writer: Su-yeon Gu
Cast: Shôta Matsuda, Kento Nagayama, Tokio Emoto, Sei Ashina, Keiko Awaji, Kaname Endô, Yûya Endô
DVD released: January 22nd, 2013
Approximate running time: 110 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese
DVD Release: Artsploitation Films
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $24.99
What would you do if you were framed for a crime you did not commit and everyone was out for your blood?
The protagonist of this film a young man named Gu is faced with this exact dilemma. Fortunately for him he is befriended by a member of the Yakuza offers him employment. This for the time being giving him a reprieve from his would be assassins.
Unfortunately all things must come to an end. And what started off as a good arrangement until Gu is drawn back to the place he has been trying to avoid. Which ultimately puts him back in harm’s way.
Content wise, Hard Romanticker has all the hallmarks that one would associate with the Yakuza films that Toei films produced throughout the 1970’s. And though the genre has endure with each new generation of filmmakers putting their own spin on the genre. Few if any of these post 1970’s Yakuza films have been able to recapture the essence of what these film’s so durable and downright engrossing.
Sure there have been a few modern Yakuza films, most notably the ones made by Takashi Miike that have left an undeniable mark on those that have watched them, myself included. With the biggest difference with these modern Yakuza films verse their 1970’s counterpart being they rely heavily of gruesome acts of violence and everything else almost becomes secondary.
Then comes along a film like Hard Romanticker that finds perfect balance between these two aforementioned examples of the Yakuza genre. First off, there is just the right amount of back-story / character development. At least in the cast of this film’s protagonist Gu. It is quickly apparent who is and what his motivations are.
Another area in which this film holds up really well is the fluidity of its narrative which opens with a monumental event that takes place later in the film. Only to slightly backtrack to the events leading up to said event. And though this type of narrative devise is not anything new or revolution. It does service the story at hand is a superb way. Making the eventual fate of its lead character all the more potent.
Being that this is a Yakuza film, it should not come as a surprise that there is more than an ample amount of moments of degradation and brutality on display. All of which are integral to the story at hand and its ultimate message.
One would be hard pressed to faults in any performance in this film as everyone gives strong and in many instances solid performances. Especially Shôta Matsuda (‘Boys over Flowers’) in the role of this film’s protagonist Gu. He gives a pitch perfect performance that is without a doubt this film’s greatest asset. And unlike other protagonist in Yakuza films, who are often portrayed as operatic psychopaths. He gives a performance that goes against the grain and it is the polar opposite of what has become the norm for this genre. There is a calmness in his performance, that further enhances his coolness and likability.
Artsploitation Films presents Hard Romanticker in an anamorphic widescreen that retains this films intended aspect ratio. Colors and flesh tones look accurate, black levels fare well, details generally look crisp and there are no major issues with compression or edge enhancement. This is a very good transfer considering the limitations of the source material.
This release comes with two audio options, a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in Japanese and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Japanese and non removable English subtitles have also been included with this release. Both audio mixes sound clear and balanced and robust when it needs too.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 26 seconds – anamorphic widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles) and a twelve page booklet with liner notes about the film. Also included with this release are trailers for other films available or soon to be released by Artsploitation Films. Overall Hard Romanticker gets a well rounded audio / video presentation from Artsploitation Films.