Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kippei Shiina, Ryo Kase, Tomokazu Miura, Jun Kunimura, Tetta Sugimoto, Hideo Nakano, Renji Ishibashi...
Motion Picture Rating (MPAA): R for violence.
Runtime: 109 minutes (Japanese with English subtitles)
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
Tokyo yakuza clans become embroiled in a power struggle with the most powerful clan disapproving of another clan's drug dealing activities. Mind you, they are not completely against drug dealing, only the punks doing it. They want the profits for themselves. An elaborate plan is devised to change the balance of power. Basically, you punch one of our guys, we beat up one of your guys. You shoot one of our guys, we shoot four of yours. Clan allegiances are fluid, despite protestations to the contrary. Everyone wants to be on the winning team. They aren't so concerned with which team that is. Just that it is the winning team. Each retaliation triggers another. Toss into the mix a corrupt cop, playing all sides, and senior gangsters with a desire to keep the skirmishes from becoming a full scale yakuza gang war and you're off and running, albeit slowly.
Basically, this is a straight forward yakuza gangster film. Fans of the genre will understand the outcome long before it arrives but they will enjoy the journey. All of the usual characters are represented — the godfather-like boss, the loyal gang members, the conniving ones, the kick-ass muscle guys, the aging senior gangsters, and the up-and-coming punks. Each encounter is roughly tied to the whole as the various gangsters play out their roles.
There is much to be enjoyed while watching this film even if the storyline is rather predictable. I especially liked the photographic style of the movie. A series of scenes from the early minutes of the movie are very memorable. Crisp, angled shots of black cars waiting for the yakuza bosses, the bosses departing, and the line of cars trailing each other down the roadway as they return to the city. I also enjoyed the dark humor. One scene in particular comes to mind — after being lured to a rival yakuza clan bar and tricked into spending nearly a million yen for the company of several beautiful young ladies, the man returns but is introduced to two aging bar maids. He asks where all the young, beautiful women have gone...quite displeased with what he refers to as "the ugly cows" now serving him at his table.
While I found this film mildly interesting, and I'm not sorry I watched it, I would not recommend it for anyone not already a fan of the yakuza film genre.
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