aka 完全な遊戯 aka Kanzenna Yugi
Based on the short story by Shintarô Ishihara
Screenplay by Yoshio Shirasaka
Directed by Toshio Masuda
This time we are beep-beep backing the truck up to 1958, where the Nikkatsu flicks were more disaffected youth culture than the thrillers and borderless action the genre will evolve into soon enough. Perfect Game still has plenty of strong characters, bad choices, and dangerous situations even with the slow leisurely pace the film begins it’s scheme setup with. The protagonists are introduced, their want of fast and easy money and willingness to bend the rules (past the breaking point!) to get said money. Like many youth they also think themselves invincible, the next score just being another quick job that will never have any bad repercussions. But if that were the case, then we wouldn’t have a movie, now would we? The fact that the protagonists all come from affluent families but still succumb to the temptations of their excesses makes this a solid Sun Tribe feature.
I love Nikkatsu’s films but I have to do them in spurts as you can only take so much bleak ruination of tragic endings before you want to watch Godzilla punch some monsters or Captain America punch some monsters (or Nazis, same thing!) Director Toshio Masuda (Rusty Knife, Red Pier) turns what could have easily been an ordinary film into a memorable tragic tale thanks to strong characters and skillfully constructed scenes that highlight the buildups to tragedy as the characters compromise their values more and more.
We got ourselves a quartet of young college students who want a bit of excitement in their lives, and gambling away the meager allowance their parents give them just ain’t cutting it. Mastermind Toda (Yasukiyo Umeno) is a straight-faced liar and owes his girlfriend Meiko (Mari Shiraki – Underworld Beauty) – the Mama of a hostess club – a large sum of money. There is also Soji Oki (Akira Kobayashi – in so many films he has a tag), who is usually called So-chan, he is the pretty one that makes the girls swoon. Jiro Akitani (Shirô Yanase) lies to both of his parents about his money issues but can manipulate his successful father into coughing up dough as needed. And finally Toshio, who I’m struggling to remember anything significant about beyond just being part of the gang. Sorry, buddy, get a personality!
The group concocts a way to cheat a local bookie on sports bets, as the bookie takes bets after the race starts, and they have just enough time to intercept the phone call of the winner and place a large bet before the phone call gets to the bookie. But they have to time everything perfectly and set things up to prevent any suspicions falling on them, as if the bookie finds out he is being cheated, his yakuza employers are not going to be happy
The plan seems simple but soon begins having more and more small complications that requires bringing in more people. The dull Kazu (Masumi Okada – Red Pier) who threatens to be too dim and impulsive for even the simplest part of the plan, and a despondant gambler at the track to call the winner even before an official winner is announced
more people means more chances to go wrong, but overall things somehow manage to come out okay. At least until they find out the bookie Tetsutaro Matsui (played by Nikkatsu regular Ryoji Hayama) doesn’t have enough cash on hand to cover the bet. The teens are angry and want their money, so soon conspire to kidnap the bookie’s sister Kyoko (Izumi Ashikawa) to get what they think they deserve. As you can guess, things soon spiral out of control as one bad decision after another dogpile into tragedy after tragedy. Some people get what they deserve but others just get a bunch of pain and sorrow. What was once some carefree youth out trying to be reckless becomes a cautionary tale that is only missing a judge directly addressing the parents in the audience to keep and eye on their children.
The setup, the execution, and the downward spiral portions all come together for a pretty solid feature. The slow pace and sparser violence are a stark contrast to the faster measure and gun-packed finales of later Nikkatsu films, but it might be enough to turn off some modern viewers. By now you know better than I if these kinds of tales appeal to you, but Perfect Games will scratch the itch for the Nikkatsu crowd.
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