When an American tourist named Jonny Hayward mysterious dies while on vacation in Tokyo. A Japanese detective named Munesue goes to New York City looking for a wanted man who fled Japan who knows the identity of the killer Jonny’s. Will detective Munesue be able to track down his only lead a fugitive before he is disposed of like all the other witnesses in this case?
Proof of the Man was directed by Junya Sato who a few years earlier directed the epic action extravaganza Bullet Train. When Proof of the Man was originally released in 1977 two versions where released a longer 133 minute Japanese version and a much shorter 100 minute English language version. The difference between the two version is not just a removal of thirty three minutes since the English language version features scenes that where shot exclusively for this edit of the film.
The origins of Proof of the Man can be traced back to a novel written by controversial author Seiichi Morimura (The Devil’s Gluttony). The film story line and cast also feature several similarities to the Ridley Scott film Black Rain. Both films feature a storyline where law enforcement from a foreign country who tries to appended fugitive suspects. The only main connection is actor Yusaku Matsuda who appears in both films. He is a detective in Proof of the Man while he plays the bad guy in Black Rain.
Visually Proof of the Man is a competently made film that features many stylish moments. The films biggest weakness is its pacing and length. The plot is overlong especially the stretched out fashion show sequences. The plot is an engrossing and the characters are all engaging enough to make you care about the outcome. The U.S. scenes are not as interesting as the Japanese scenes.
This production features an impressive ensemble cast that includes Toshirô Mifune, Mariko Okada (The Fall of Ako Castle), Bunjaku Han (Stray Cat Rock: Wild Measures ‘71), Hideo Murota (Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs), Joe Yamanaka (Deadly Outlaw: Rekka), Broderick Crawford (All the King’s Men), William Sanderson (“Larry” from Newhart) and Kinji Fukasaku. The two leads are played by George Kennedy and Yusaku Matsuda. Kennedy’s performance is pretty much a typical of the roles he was playing at the time like The ‘Human’ Factor.
The films brightest shining star is actor Yusaku Matsuda (Resurrection of Golden Wolf) who creates another memorable character. Matsuda gets into his characters skin with his subtle performance that perfectly offsets the scenes where he teams up with George Kennedy who tends to play his characters too loudly. The film does do a good job of keeping the identity of the killer under wraps until the film’s final moments. The ended is a bit exaggerated especially when the killer is revealed and elaborates why they murdered Jonny Hayward.
Ultimately Proof of the Man is still a highly entertaining murder mystery despite its short comings and it is worth watching if just for Yusaku Matsuda’s mesmerizing performance.