Postman Blues*

Saturday, August 16, 1997

Author: Gerow, Aaron
Japanase Title: Posutoman burusu
Director: Sabu
Release Date: August 16, 1997


  • Production Company: F.T.B., Suplex Inc., Television Tokyo Channel 12, Nikkatsu
  • Release: 16 August 1997
  • Length: 110 min.
  • Format: 35 mm; 1:1.85
  • Color: Color


  • Director: Sabu
  • Executive Producer: Satani Hidemi
  • Screenplay: Sabu
  • Original Story: Sabu
  • Photography: Kuriyama Shuji
  • Music: Sato Koya
  • Art Director: Nishimura Toru
  • Editor: Kakesu Shuichi


  • Sawaki: Tsutsumi Shin’ichi
  • Kyoko: Toyama Kyoko
  • Joe: Osugi Ren
  • Noguchi Shuji: Horibe Keisuke
  • Det. Domon Taizo: Shimizu Hiroshi
  • Ran: Takizawa Ryoko
  • Profiler: Taguchi Tomoro
  • Hanta: Maro Akaji

‘Postman’ Rings with High Action

“Does your heart ever thump with excitement like it did when you were a kid?” The yakuza Noguchi (Horibe Keisuke) poses this question to his childhood friend Sawaki (Tsutsumi Shin’ichi) at the beginning of Postman Blues, but it could equally be directed at the audience. How long has it been since a Japanese movie really made your adrenaline flow?

If it has been a while, the Postman Blues signals the end to your long wait. Just as Sawaki, a bored postman stung by Noguchi’s query, in the end opts to get off the beaten path of postal delivery to seek his own thrills, director Sabu veers from a conventional Japanese cinema defined by either cheap diversions or dolorous art to deliver his own wonderful package of movie excitement.

The content we get is not exactly new: Sabu’s entertainment strategy does not involve dumping convention out the window, but rather wittily playing with and parodying it. Part of the fun is just to sit back and spot movie citations ranging from old Nikkatsu action films and Takakura Ken to Chungking Express and Jean Reno.

The problem of convention is, in fact, the center of Sabu’s comedic world. Last year’s hilarious Dangan Runner, which played to great applause at the Berlin Film Festival, featured three idiot heroes and a cast of bungling characters almost fatally in love with macho stereotypes. This time, however, Sawaki is less an admirer of these constraining images than their unknowing victim.

Emerging from Noguchi’s apartment, Sawaki is spotted by cops staking out the young gangster. Wondering why a postman would enter the apartment, they figure Sawaki must be some kind of delivery man and begin following him. After a few twists and turns involving drugs, a severed finger (cut by Noguchi in yakuza style), and some other details too absurd to explain here, the cops and their criminal profiler become certain that this postman is really a sexually peverted, drug-addicted, mass murdering gang kingpin who likes to dismember his victims.

In reality, Sawaki just wants to be something more than a postman, since that’s how everyone seems to define him. His break from the routine is to pursue a love affair with Kyoko (Toyama Kyoko), a terminally-ill cancer patient whose letter he finds in his bag.

That romance is probably the most conventional and cloying part of Postman Blues, but it indicates how kindly Sabu looks upon characters with even the most cliched dreams if they are romantically hopeless. Beyond Sawaki, another such dreamer is the hitman Joe (Osugi Ren), whom Sawaki befriends at Kyoko’s hospital, would win the Killer of Killers competition if it wasn’t for the presence of a more powerful rival - the fatal killer inside his body.

Just as the mad dash in Dangan Runner enabled its heroes to transcend their categorized existence, it is Sawaki’s frentic bike ride against the clock to meet Kyoko - all undertaken without knowledge of the police’s high-tech pursuit - that gives him his thrills and us ours. The decision of Noguchi and Joe to help him also gives meaning to their lives.

But it is the cops with their roadblocks and blocked minds that makes them representative of all that is stifling about modern society. Despite their own bungling stupidity and a few good eggs, they are more formidable than the self-destructive fools in Dangan Runner. Their power drives up the ante and makes the smashing conclusion to Postman Blues that much more potent and adrenaline-filled. Postman Blues is an action comedy, one of the better ones in years. But as the “blues” in the title indicates, its world view is ultimately pessimistic. For Sabu, escape from this world must inevitably involve the most extreme forms of transcendence. Yet it is lucky for us that Sabu’s own effort to rise above the dull clouds of tired Japanese film entertainment, through raucous and wonderfully radical, need not go that far.

Reviewed by Aaron Gerow

Originally appeared in The Daily Yomiuri, 28 August 1997, p. 9.

Copyright 1997: The Daily Yomiuri and Aaron Gerow