By: Anthony Francis
An assassin that can subdue his prey in six seconds. An assassin who carries a single-action gun filled with non-lethal bullets. An assassin called “The Fable”.
Akira Sato (Junichi Okada) a.k.a. The Fable is a professional killer who is a legend, perhaps even a ghost story, for gangsters in the criminal underworlds.
Premiering at this year’s New York Asian Film Festival, “TheFable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill” is a sequel to 2019’s “The Fable”. In that film, Sato killed so many that his boss ordered him to take a break and blend into normal society for a while. He was also given orders not to kill anyone. The sequel finds Sato living a double life and working a good job at a design company; an occupation where no one could ever discover his violent past, right?
He shares an apartment with his handler of sorts, Yoko (Fumino Kimura). The two live as brother and sister to further throw off any scent of Sato’s identity.
All is as good as can be in this kind of situation until one of Sato’s former targets resurfaces and, in his life and his job, all Hell is on the verge of breaking loose.
The pot begins to boil as his nerdy work colleague Etsuji (Masao Yoshii) finds himself in the crosshairs of Utsubo (a soulful yet ultimately sinister Shin’ichi Tsutsumi), a true villain who extorts money from the parents of young people who have gotten themselves in trouble. Etsuji planted cameras in the apartment of a work client and now Utsobo is ready to pounce on his single mother’s money.
Masanobu Ando is Suzuki, the most interesting character in the film. He is a hired killer working for Utsobo. His style is Japanese Action Cinema cool with his purple trench coat, dark glasses, and long black hair. Once he comes face to face with Sato and discovers that he is actually The Fable, tensions mount, a coming face-off looms large, and loyalties are tested.
The film opens with a series of fast and clever assassinations that leads to one hell of a car stunt that goes through, up, and off the high side of a car park. It is an amazing sequence done without CGI that immediately grabs the audience’s attention.
The film’s biggest and most exciting action set piece is a jaw-dropping attack set in and on a high-rise apartment building.
Sato is set up to go to an apartment on a top floor of a building. He knows it’s a trap (there are explosives set to go once he opens the door), so he ignores it and leaps over the side to get out of the way. Dropping three stories down, he pulls himself onto the ledge and back to the “safety” of another floor.
Still high up, Utsobo has hired a team of killers who immediately move in for the attack. Sato runs, kicks, punches, and shoots (non-lethal shots, as he has been forbidden to kill, lest we forget!) as dozens of men rain down upon him with guns, knives, and Martial Arts skills.
The stunts in this film are amazing as Sato and his pursuers go from floor to floor and up down and around the roof-high scaffolding.
As the icing on the cake of this sequence, there is a Brian De Palma-like tension filled moment where a little girl comes out onto the edge of the scaffold trying to reach a balloon. It is a white-knuckled scene that ends with a very funny comedic payoff that the film has been setting up since the beginning.
Throughout the film there is a lot of humor, but the comedy is not too broad. There are funny characters and a couple of situations that are eased by a bit of humor. Even Sato gets some funny quirks added to his character.
When the finale comes and everyone meets their respective fates, it gets a bit too melodramatic for its own good and the big revelation is something the audience has probably already figured out an hour ago. Still, none of this hurts the film.
Director Kan Eguchi has made an immensely entertaining sequel that is far better than the first film. This one is bigger, wilder, and more entertaining.
Adapted from Katushisa Minami’s popular Manga by Masahiro Yamaura and director Eguchi, “The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill” is a fun action film that will have its audience laughing and on the edge of their seats in equal measure.