In essence, 19 year old Kunihiko (Horiyuki Sanada) is a good boy: He
stays out of trouble, is good at school, a good employee at his adoptive
father Tetsuo (Tsutomu
Yamazaki), and his favourite pastime, painting, hurts noone.
Eventually, he falls in love with Machiko (Keiko Matsuzaka), a barowner
and former geisha, and she falls in love with him as well, and life could
be so beautiful - if it wasn't for her patron ...
It soon turns out that
Machiko's patron is the least of their problems, there's also Masao
(Koichi Sato), Tetsuo's real son and Kunihiko's best friend, whose career
choice is that of a pool shark - and he's pretty good at playing pool,
too. But unfortunately, pool is essentially nothing but another form of
gambling, and Masao is playing for higher nd higher stakes. For a time, he
is sponsored by Yuki (Mariko Kaga), owner of a pool joint, because she has
a certain fondness for Masao's father Tetsuo, who was once a poolshark
himself but has long quit because his gambling habit essentially led to
the suicide of his wife.
Masao is asked to participate in a tournament
in Tokyo, but he lacks the money needed, half a fortune, and this time,
Yuki won't pay up anymore - so he makes up a lie to get the money from
Machiko, telling her it's for Kunihiko's benefit, and he succeeeds, too.
When Kunihiko finds out, he breaks off with Masao, quits his job at
Tetsuo's and even moves out of his place. When Machiko hears this, she
breaks off with her patron and in the consequence loses her bar, just to
be able to live with him.
When Tetsuo finds out what his son has done,
he decides it's time to teach him a lesson, so with the help of Yuki, who
thinks he has saved her life, he trains to become a champ again, then
challenges his son, his tearoom against the boy's pool career. Tetsuo
plays dirty, just to show him how dirty gambling can be, and he breaks
Masao in the process, but then he cheats to let him win, just so he can be
master over his own fate.
In the meantime, on his way home to Machiko,
Kunihiko interferes in a fight between a transvestite he knows and her
lover, and accidently gets stabbed to death in the process ...
well-made and at times touching, at times suspenseful, at times pretty
violent drama that's good at creating atmosphere, but not so good at
telling its actual story, which is somehow marred by a few too many
subplots and a certain lack of stringency. Now that might all work very
fine in the novel the film is based on, but if you're confined to the
length of a feature (in this case an overlong 2 hours), the whole thing is
just a tad too convoluted and could have done with a bit of streamlining.
Still, not at all a bad film.