Review by David Cirone
Hanzawa Naoki‘s opening shot, a slowly-zooming close-up of the title character’s confession of beliefs, instantly brings to mind comparisons to The Godfather. Like Michael Corleone, mild-mannered banker Hanzawa is a man who transforms because of a duty to family, a dedication to his father, and ultimately, a singular focus to right the wrongs that have been done to him. Like Michael, Hanzawa is also capable of lying to those closest to him, even to himself, and his desire for revenge brings out his strength at the same time it brings out darker sides of his nature.
We’re rooting for Hanzawa from the start because he’s a little man who’s underestimated — we can all identify with that — but we’re accomplices, too, because right from this opening scene, Hanzawa Naoki is lying, and we know it.
Starting with the 1991 flashback to Hanzawa’s job interview, we see his determination to do things his way. “Surely there are other banks,” his interviewer prods, but Hanzawa insists. “It has to be this bank.” At the new hire orientation, he makes a veiled statement to the two men who will become his lifelong friends, Kondo (Kenichi Takito), his university kendo partner, and the management-minded Tomari (Mitsuhiro Oikawa): “I’m going to make it to the top,” Hanzawa proclaims, “and then there’s something I have to do.”