Rakuy˘ (The Setting Sun ) (1992)
Director: Rou Tomono.
Starring: Masaya Kat˘ (Kaya Tatsuma), Diane Lane (Lian Hong), Biao Yuen (Tougetsu), Donald Sutherland (John Williams).
Japanese agent in Manchuria gets money for Japanese war effort there by stealing and selling opium
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Mukden, 1928. Lian-hong is a half-American Chinese singer at the night club Cat's Eyes. She sings about the Mississippi River and New Orleans. A Japanese officer named Kaya comes in. After Lian stops singing she sits by a Mr. Tamai, who starts grabbing at her and laughing. She starts yelling for him to stop it, but he pays her no attention. The soldier goes over to put a stop to the molestation. He is stopped by a man who says he can't bother Mr. Tamai. Kaya goes crazy. He takes his samurai sword and tries to kill Tamai, while a lot of men try to stop him. A member of the Mafia-like Qingbang, Du Yue-sheng, tries to stop him and is hit in the forehead with the sword (which will leave a scar). Mr. Tamai gets away. The club owners have Lian taken back to her village for awhile.
Three years later. Japan tries to seize Manchuria for its own. An assassin tries to kill Kaya who is in civilian clothes, having been kicked out of the Japanese army for the Tamai incident. Someone starts fighting with the would-be assassin and the shot only breaks the glass from which Kaya was drinking. Kaya rushes to help subdue the assassin. The assassin is killed. Kaya comments: "I only just got here. The Qingbang have good ears." The assassin is one of Du's boys, paid in opium. Kaya takes a look at an active open den and says that's where the Qingbang gets its money.
Port Arthur (Luchun). Japanese Army Headquarters. Col. Ishihara talks with Kaya. He says Manchuria and the Japanese army need his help. The colonel wants to seize Manchuria. Kaya says he would like to help but they kicked him out of the army. The Colonel continues with his speech. He says they need money. They only have funds for a few days of real war. Kaya accepts the assignment and it is up to him as how he gets hold of lots of money.
Kaya goes to the Cat's Eye club. a man named Domon is there. He tells Kaya: "I will look into how to get money."
A small group of the Chinese resistance meets together. Comrade Long is in charge of this Communist group. He is handed a note. The Japanese police are coming. He tells everyone to scatter. The police rush up the stairs. Kaya sees Long and his sister running away. He asks them: "They after you?" He tells them to come this way. As they pass he says: "I don't like cops either."
The First Bank of Mukden. A Colonel comes in to tell the bank manager that General Zhang wants him to tell him that he has 100 million yuan in New Certificates printed in the U.S. and he wants the bank manager to handle the money. It is for the Anti-Japanese War. He will need an answer by tomorrow.
The truck carrying the 100 million yuan runs into a wagon blocking the way. Kaya and his crew jump-up and subdue the driver and co-driver. They open one of the boxes from the back. It is filled with money. Chinese troops of General Zhang Xue-liang approach them, but they are distracted by explosions not far from them. (September 18, 1931. "The Manchurian Incident.") Kaya says about the explosions: "That's Ishihara!" They drive the truck right through the unsettled Chinese troops and get away.
Col. Ishihara receives a call from Kaya. He has the 100,000,000 yuan. Ishihara says: "Now Manchuria is ours!"
Col. Ishihara and Kaya meet. He tells Kaya that they need even more money. They want to set up and independent state (a puppet state) under the abdicated Emperor Pu Yi. Kaya comes up with the idea of taking the salt from the warehouse at Dalian and selling it at a huge profit in the hinterland.
Changes in the distribution system brought about by the war caused a shortage of salt where it literally became worth its weight in gold. Kaya sells the salt for the gold. Kaya packs the gold in boxes to be taken to Col. Ishihara. Domon sends two men with Kaya to assist him. At night the two men try to rob the gold from Kaya. But a group of Chinese bandits intervene and kill the two thieves. The leader of the gang is none other than Lian. Kaya and Lian embrace. During the night they have sex. Afterwards Kaya speaks to her of the incident that happened more than three years ago at the Cat's Eye. He says that Tamai was a smooth talker who swindled his father who was growing opium under government orders. Dad went broke and killed himself. Lian tells him that she is so sorry to hear that.
Kaya prepares to get on a horse and leave. Lian asks him to stay with the bandits and fight together with them. But he has his duties to perform. She gives him a beautiful necklace. She has another just like it. They say good-bye. Kaya takes the gold with him.
Nation of Manchukuo. Founded March 1, 1939. A puppet state in Manchuria. The Japanese army now seeks to make money by bringing in duty-free Japanese goods to sell. The Chinese merchant tells the Japanese agent that the army can make much more money by selling opium.
The War Ministry summons Col. Ishihara back to Tokyo in August 1932 fearing his independent activity will cause friction with the Soviet Union. Before he leaves Kaya meets with him. The Colonel tells him to stay out of the opium business. Kaya meets Ishihara's replacement, Col. Takei.
The Japanese army gets into the opium business now. The guy who controls the opium market in Shanghai is Du. When Du finds out he says: "Those damn Japanese! I'll use my opium money to drive them out of China.
Col. Takei puts a lot of money into two suitcases. He tells Kaya that he likes the opium trade. They took Jehol for the opium. Kaya tells him: "I won't sell opium" Takei tells him that he is nothing without the 300,000 Japanese troops to back him. Kaya says: "End of conversation." But Takei knows about the bandit group under the leadership of Lian. He says that they could bomb her village. Takei shows Kaya pictures of Lian's small farm. Kaya says: "You bastard!" He leaves. A Japanese officer runs after Kaya to tell him that only he can save Manchuria.
Kaya works with Domon, but does so with an uneasy feeling about the operation. Domon calls his contacts and tells them that Kaya's truck will slow down by Shaoyang. "Hit them there!"
Kaya travels with his crew, but is ambushed. The crew fights bravely but there are too many attackers. Kaya is saved by the arrival of Japanese soldiers from the Kawakamij Jinzhou Garrison. Lian and her bandits watch the event unfold. She attacks the fleeing attackers of Kaya. They grab one man to make him talk.
Lian and Kaya get together. She says she heard about the ambush and called the Special Service Agency to let them know about the planned attack. Kaya asks if she killed Domon. She says yes, she disposed of a traitor and she did it for Kaya. Lian tells Kaya that she wants to be with him. They embrace.
July 7, 1937. The China Incident. Fighting breaks out near Peking's Marco Polo Bridge.
July 8, 5:30 a.m. Claiming retaliation for an artillery barrage the night before, Japan attacks Chinese forces near Peking. The fighting reaches Shanghai and "The China Incident" becomes an undeclared war. It lasts eight years. The War Ministry splits into two factions and Col. Takei is removed from his post. Col. Ishihara is promoted to Major-General and sent back to Manchuria. Claiming Japanese civilians there need protection, he starts building up his forces.
Ishihara meets with Kaya. He tells Kaya that they have to counter the Soviet build-up on the border. He will need Kaya's help again.
Kaya and Lian get together. They kiss. Kaya tells her that he is thinking of going to Shanghai. A man there will help them.
A large shipment of opium is coming in to Du and his Qingbang monopoly. Du learns that the Japanese have an ex-army man running their opium operations. His name is Kaya Tatsuma. The informant tells Du that he might remember Kaya from Mukden. Of course, Du remembers him. Du confronts Kaya. He throws the death card on the table. Kaya is not concerned. He says: "You'll be the one to die."
Kaya goes to the Shanghai Publishing Company to speak with a man named Yamami. He wants Yamami to help him with the distribution of a large shipment of opium coming in from Iran. Yamami is interested. He tells Kaya that he thinks his secretary is a spy.
Mr. Du's western girlfriend tells him about the Iran shipment. He knows Lao San-Ye and the Nationalist Leaders and another big wheel named Tang Shao-yi.
Mr. Yamashiro visits Kaya and Lian. The Nationalists want the Qingbang to kill someone. He tells Kaya to avoid Tang Shao-yi, the diplomat. Du Yue-Sheng is also after him. Secretary Long, the Mukden Communist, is also here.
Long learns about the opium coming from Iran from Liu Xiao-ying. Kaya, Lian and Tang Yao-shi toast to the success of "our" venture.
Long is determined to destroy the evil opium shipment. He and four others kill one of the soldiers guarding the place where the opium is stored. They then go in to get the opium. Kaya and Lian are there also. As Long's men near the shipment they are ambushed by Japanese soldiers. After wounding some of the soldiers Long is able to get away. Kaya lets him escape. Du is disappointed for he had hoped that the two groups would have killed each other.
Kaya says that there is definitely a spy working against them, listening in on their conversations. At Shanghai Publishing Yamami decides to test to make sure his secretary is definitely the spy. He talks on the phone about a made-up event. He sees the secretary writing something down. After he hangs up he sees her leave. He darkens the sheet of note paper under the one on which the secretary took down the information by running a pencil over it back and forth making it possible to read the information. It is the false information he had provided on the phone.
Japanese Consulate. American John Williams has his chauffer drive him up next to the identified spy. He tells her that Mr. Long wants to meet with her. They go to the Cat's Eye. There the spy is given a knock-out pill in her drink. When she awakens she realizes that they have drugged her. She is now totally addicted to opium. And she is suffering from withdrawal pains. Williams tells her that they will give her the fix if she talks.
Du and his crew try to get to the opium. They take out the guard. But they also run into a trap. The Japanese soldiers think they have caught him, but Du uses his karate skills to knock the soldier down and out and he escapes. Kaya says to Lian: "They fell for it."
Kaya goes to see Yamami at the Cat's Eye. He burns the new bills and comments that they are good for nothing. Yamami laughs and says that opium is the currency here. The German military attachÚ in Shanghai comes over to speak with Yamami. The German is certain that soon Shanghai will be theirs. He leaves. Yamami tells Kaya that he is strong, that he gets more opium than anyone, but all he does with the money is give it over to feed Colonel Ishihara's pipe dreams. Yamami then calls Wang Zhao-ming from Nanking over to his table. They talk for a moment but Wang gives him no information. After Wang leaves, Yamami tells Kaya that Tokyo wants to make Wang prime minister in Nanking. Two pretty women come over and Yamami says to Kaya: "Tonight we drink!"
The spy secretary's body is found floating in the water. Long also sees the body.
Kaya carries a suitcase with him into a railway yard. Yamami follows him to tell Kaya that he is is danger. After all, he beat the Qingbang to the opium. He then tells Kaya that he is wasting his time in Manchuria. Manchukuo is not a nation, but an empty vessel. Kaya says he sent Lian ahead of him and Yamami tells him that he treats his lovers like employees. He finishes his warning with another: "In China we say 'Let the tiger sleep.' . . . America." Kaya continues his walk down the ship docks.
December 7, 1941. The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Within six months the Japanese control a vast Pacific Empire. But their supply lines are dangerously stretched.
Kaya and Lian are back with the bandits. They give a fellow opium and he gives them paper money. Lian shouts at him: "You damn thief! These Nanking bills are garbage! We want real money." The fellow gets out the real paper money and gives it to Lian. But the thief has a back-up plan. A gunman's shadow is seen and one of the bandits shoots hitting the man squarely in the forehead. Down he falls.
The opium business bothers Lian. She wonders to her friend May-may why they are selling opium to destroy their own people. May-may says it's the opium war all over again.
1942. The U.S. counter-attack. Japan is being forced to retreat from occupied territories.
A message brings bad news to Ishihara and Kaya. Guadalcanal has fallen to the Americans. Ishihara says that the war is not going well. The combined Japanese fleet suffered serious reverses. Kaya says he has good news. Du Yue-shang is doing a big opium deal in Hailar. "I'm going to grab it."
Du eats at a restaurant. He tells his girlfriend that there is a Japanese female spy behind them. Du tells his companion to head to the kitchen to see if she follows her. He wants to find out what the Japanese know. In the kitchen the Japanese spy tries to kill the girlfriend. Du, however, arrives just is time to foil the plan. He then grabs the spy and threatens to force her face into a pan of hot cooking oil.
Long and his men are at the opium dealing place to see that no one gets the opium. Inside Kaya and Lian and their bandits are doing business with the opium traders. The leader wants to know why Du didn't come to meet him. Kaya tells him that Mr. Du had business in Shanghai. A trader messenger comes in. The lead trader pulls his gun on Kaya and Lian. Then all the trader's men point their rifles at the pair. May-may creates a diversion and all hell breaks loose. In the fire fight Kaya shoots the lead trader in the forehead killing him instantly. Then the communists burst through the wall in their truck. Long shouts to his men: "Burn the opium!" Long lets Kaya, Lian and May-may go. Outside Du's girlfriend shoots May-may. Lian is very upset and cries over her. Du is also there. He faces off with Kaya in a show-down. They start fighting. Long arrives to help Kaya and is wounded by Du. Long then throws his gun to Kaya. Kaya catches it and he and Du fire at each other. Kaya is wounded in the arm. Du is still standing, but he realizes that he is mortally wounded as blood flows down his arm and onto the snow. He drops dead. May-may dies. In her grief, Lian asks Kaya: "Why? Why? God damn opium. It's driving everybody crazy. Well, no more. It's over . . . . "
August 9, 1945. The Soviet Union breaks its Neutrality Pact and declares war on Japan.
Kaya is driving a truck with his family in the back. The communist Chinese stop the truck at a checkpoint. They go to the back and grab the woman. Kaya tries to stop them, but he is arrested. Fortunately for Kaya, Long is there again. He says he will have the Mamiya family escorted to Dalian. From there they will be sent to Japan. Kaya, however, will be sent to Peking for trial. There he will be sentenced to death. He then tells Kaya that there is food and water in a pack. He is leaving the room for thirty minutes.
Kaya walks on and on. He has the jewel with him that Lian gave him. He walks all the way to Lian's place. The two embrace. Lian says: "I'm so happy. I knew you'd come back." She cries. She introduces Kay to her real father, Liu Zong-ren. Dad tells Kaya that he had Lian by the sister of his wife Katherine. Katherine wanted to kill the child, so he sent Lian to a bandit friend of his. He says that Li-Jiao and Xiao-ying are both dead. Lian then asks Kaya to stay with them. Kaya says: "No. I can't. I came to say good-bye." Lian asks why, but Kaya remains silent. Daid intervenes to tell his daughter that some things you can't say even to someone you love. She then asks Kaya where he's going. He is leaving his homeland and heading west. Dad gives him three Kunlun jewels, each one worth enough to purchase a small army. Kaya says he is very grateful. He leaves.
This is not a very good movie. It is from the Japanese viewpoint and, dealing with World War II, that is unacceptable. The hero Kaya is a nice fellow and a brave and talented one, but one just cannot sympathize with a man working for the brutal Japanese imperialists. Therefore, you never really like Kaya. And you even wonder about the heroine, Lian, because she is selling opium to her own people to give the money to the Japanese. And Diane Lane as Lian just doesn't look Chinese at all, even if she is part American. The actor playing Kaya is very good, but yah still can't like him. (But I didn't hate him either.) If the Japanese want to make World War II films, they should stick to the anti-war theme. Japanese behavior in that war must never be condoned!
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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