Retired yakuza gangster Shuji (Ken Takakura) moves back from Osaka to a remote coastal village to start a new life as a fisherman with his family, his arrival from the city coinciding with that of the beautiful bar hostess Keiko (Yuko Tanaka, who provided the voice of Lady Eboshi in Princess Mononoke). Keiko’s new bar, as its name Hotaru (‘firefly’) suggests is soon acting as a magnet for all the local fishermen, much to the chagrin of their wives. Not soon after the arrival of Keiko’s roguish lover Yajima (Kitano), also an ex-mobster, the locals are drawn into a host of collective vices including gambling and all-night drinking sessions. After a truly stand-out scene in which Yajima runs rampage through the village on a heroin-induced spree with a carving knife, he is run out of town by Shuji, but not before slashing Shuji’s shirt open during the fracas to reveal the tattoo of a woman’s face upon his back. With Shuji’s gangster past now revealed he finds himself ostracised by the local community and drawn towards the sympathetic character of the bar hostess with whom he shares a common past. When Yajima rears his ugly head one more time in order to borrow money from Keiko to pay off a debt to the yakuza, it is to Shuji that she turns for help, threatening to upset his domestic apple cart and pitch him back towards his old life.
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