Rusty Knife (Day 39)

Rusty Knife My Opinion: 4.2 || And I chose this because? I can’t remember. It kicks off well, but the story becomes increasingly hokey and reliant on cantilevered coincidences. By the last third, it’s very difficult to care what happens.

TITLE: Rusty Knife (Sabita naifu)
DIRECTOR: Toshiro Masuda
LANGUAGE: Japanese | COUNTRY: Japan
YEAR: 1958
PROFILE: Thriller | 90 minutes | IMDb (6.9)

SYNOPSIS (Courtesy of IMDb): Udaka is a new, post-war city where corruption has already taken hold. A persistent district attorney wants to arrest and convict Katsumata, a laughing, self-confident thug. The D.A. gets an anonymous letter about the suicide five years’ before of a city council member. Evidence about the case leads the D.A. to Tachibana, struggling to go straight after involvement with the mob and a prison sentence for killing the man responsible for the rape and suicide of his fiancée. One of Tachibana’s friends is Keiko, the daughter of the dead councilman and the ward of another powerful official. How do these stories connect?

Rusty Knife

Strengths: Several good film noir elements, and the set-up is enjoyable.

Weaknesses: Anyone with an intact cerebellum will see the final “twist” coming about half-way through the movie. In the climax, our hero declares, “You fooled us all.” By which he means the characters, not any sentient viewer. The transparent inevitability of the big revelation makes the final stretches of the movie a slog.

The knife isn’t very rusty. Or important.

Rusty Knife

Characters/Performances: The protagonist, Tachibana (who gets introduced fairly late), does have some pathos as he tries to reform his inclination toward violence. Unfortunately, Masuda lays on so many far-fetched coincidences and contrived justifications that Tachibana’s struggle loses all resonance.

Best Moment: When Tachibana realizes he might have killed the wrong man years ago, there’s a glimpse of emotional and narrative complexity. But the complexity doesn’t last.

File Under: film noir, crime, corruption, betrayal, guilt