Even people who’ve never read a word of Anton Chekhov will probably be familiar with his thoughts about firearms. The “Chekhov’s gun” principle — that you shouldn’t introduce a rifle, or indeed any element, into a story unless it’s going to serve a purpose later on — also applies in Kohei Sanada’s “Firing the Lighter Gun.” Only in this case, the weapon in question is actually a pistol-shaped cigarette lighter toted by the film’s downtrodden protagonist.

Tatsuya (Yuya Okutsu) isn’t the kind of guy to carry a real piece, at least not under normal circumstances. He’s a man who has grown accustomed to internalizing the blows that life deals him. Surrounded by people more cynical and opportunistic than he is, he can’t help looking weak: His tragic flaw is that he’s actually still capable of kindness.

Tatsuya’s hometown, a rural nowhere in Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region, has found itself on the edge of a disaster zone following an accident at a local nuclear power plant. (Perhaps for legal reasons, this is depicted as a separate mishap that occurred after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.) While those with the means to do so are leaving the area, others are scrambling to capitalize on the influx of reconstruction funds that the calamity has brought.