Mobsters’ Confessions (1998)

Rating: C+

Dir: Rokuro Mochizuki
Star: Shunsuke Matsuoka, Amiko Kanaya, Shohei Hino, Shingo Tsurumi

If David Mamet was Japanese, it’s easy to imagine this as the result. Small-time conman Jiro (Shunsuke Matsuoka) makes his living swindling sub-contractors for big corporations. But one victim’s daughter, Kumiko (Amiko Kanaya), knows his secret and he does hers, which intertwines their fates. As well as that intensifying relationship, Jiro teams up with gangster on the rise Kamewada (Shohei Hino), and low-wattage sidekick Jay (Shingo Tsurumi) in schemes of steadily-increasing size. But Jiro and Kumiko’s symbiotic and self-destructive affair seems doomed to fail, despite their obvious, and frequently portrayed, physical attraction. Jiro shamelessly whores her out as part of his con games, yet resents both the need to do so, and the weakness that resentment shows in himself.

This depth is apparent in most of the characters: Kamewada, for example, at first seems like your typical thuggish Yakuza, but knows exactly how to manipulate Jiro. Even Jay isn’t quite as dim as he seems on the outside. Mochizuki, however, is better at handling – and apparently more interested in – characters than plot. Things happen with little apparent explanation; perhaps it presumes too much knowledge about the precise time and place (stated in the opening scene as 1980’s Tokyo, during the property bubble). Certainly, the finale leaves more questions unanswered that I like, with Jiro’s spiral towards an inevitable confrontation with Kamewada, disappointingly rushed; it makes little logical sense as a result. However, the acting is strong – Tsurumi stands out, albeit in a minor role, but Kanaya is also great, and her final scene has surprising poignancy. These performances provide the moments that will stick in your mind, when most of the storyline has likely long since been forgotten.