(director/writer: Takeshi Kitano; cinematographer: Katsumi Yanagijima; editors: Takeshi Kitano/Yoshinori Ota; music: Keiichi Suzuki; cast: Takeshi Kitano (Otomo), Jun Kunimura (Ikemoto), Kippei Shîna (Mizuno), Ryô Kase (Mizuno), Fumiyo Kohinata (Kataoka ), Soichiro Kitamura (Chairman, Kan’nai), Tomokazu Miura (Sannokai thug, Kato), Renji Ishibashi (Murase), Tetta Sugimoto (Ozawa), Eihi Shiina (Call Girl); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Masayuki Mori, Yoshinori Takeda; Magnolia Pictures; 2010-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“An enjoyable over-the-top stylishly violent and amoral yakuza film.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An enjoyable over-the-top stylishly violent and amoral yakuza film by the iconic Japanese filmmaker Takeshi “Beat” Kitano (“Sonatine “/”Fireworks”). The filmmaker was once a comedian, hence the stage name of “Beat” (he was also a painter, writer, singer, and TV show host). His present film features shocking violence, choreographed mayhem and a high body count. The cartoonish violence is meant to be not only bloody but bloody fun. In this film, a return to his successful art-house form, after a failure in Brother (2000), set in LA, and his flop in The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi (2004). This lively one should have his fans eating it up. But his slick gory style is not for everyone (all mainstream viewers may not be tuned in to his gory style), but for those with an acquired taste for his ruthless set-pieces will be rewarded with a well-executed film that’s both violent and absurdly funny. The great cinematographer Katsumi Yanagijima adds to the visual effects by filming the executions in slow motion.
The Nehru-suited Chairman (Soichiro Kitamura), the boss of the Sannokai, an organized crime syndicate controlling the Kanto region, warns his lieutenant Kato (Tomokazu Miura) and Kato’s right-hand man Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura), head of the Ikemoto-gumi, to keep the free-wheeling Murase (Renji Ishibashi)-the leader of the rival gang and a prison acquaintance of Ikemoto, as the two rivals made a deal in prison that’s not working on the outside.
Ikemoto reacts to the orders by the boss by giving his brutal and wily subordinate Otomo (Takeshi Kitano) the difficult task of containing the outsider yakuza. Otomo’s actions are applied with the aid of his crew, led by the efficient lieutenant Mizuno (Ryo Kase) and with the help of Ozawa (Tetta Sugimoto), Ikemoto’s cruel chief aide. Their actions spark a bloody round of vendettas and turf wars that also involve a corrupt cop and an African ambassador.
Double-crossings are the norm. Don’t be too shocked over the loss of a few pinkies. The compositions are artfully designed. There’s also a wonderful madcap scene in a dentist’s chair that compares well with the one in “The Marathon Man.”
By the end of the third act everyone gets rubbed out. Heroes are for other gangster films, instead Kitano wants to show blood flowing as the true yakuza lifeline.
REVIEWED ON 6/14/2020 GRADE: B