STREET MOBSTER (Gendai yakuza: hito-kiri yota) (director/writer: Kinji Fukasaku; screenwriter: Yoshihiro Ishimatsu; cinematographer: Hanjiro Nakazawa; music: Toshiaki Tsushima; cast: Bunta Sugawara (Isamu Okita), Nobuo Yana (Karasawa); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; Home Vision Entertainment; 1972-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“Energetic but pointless rise and fall of a mobster pic.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Kinji Fukasaku (“Yakuza Graveyard”/”Graveyard of Honor”/”Battle Royale”) directs this energetic but pointless rise and fall of a mobster pic, reminiscent of those Hollywood crime dramas of the 1930s with a modern Mean Streetslook due to freeze frames and other slick updated filming techniques. Unlike his later films, it lacks social commentary and relevancy. Instead it shoots for over-the-top violence, overacting and a familiar tedious narrative. This early stylish film from Fukasaku is one of the legendary Japanese director’s missteps in the over sixty films he has directed. The director passed away in 2003 while filming a sequel to Battle Royale, and his son Kenta finished the pic.
The film chronicles the misspent life of Isamu Okita (Bunta Sugawara), who was born to an insensitive and vulgar prostitute mother on the day Japan surrendered on 8/15/45 and was raised in a flophouse. The lost youngster, pictured as a product of his bad environment, starts out as a street punk leader of a gang who get into brawls, is an extortionist, and rapes and kidnaps girls–selling them to brothels. When the powerful Tokyo yakuza, the Takigawa clan, rough him up to keep him off their turf, he seeks revenge by killing a number of their soldiers in a bathhouse. After serving a long prison stretch, he returns to the Tokyo streets as the same bad ass as he was when he went in. He finds the Takigawa clan has been under pressure from the police and has covered their tracks by going legit, thereby dumping the punks they used before. Isamu is soon made head of the punk gang when he teams up with their wannabe gangster leader Kizaki, who previously worked for the yakuza. They then go after the Takigawa gang by raiding their clubs and getting into brawls with them. But in a changed Tokyo, the new power is the Yato gang. The gang leader uses Isamu to rid him of his rival gang and opts for a peaceful solution. But soon a rival gang leader named Mr. Owada takes over the gang and when Isamu’s gang refuses to respect the new peace agreement, they are given the boot. This escalates into a new wave of violence between Isamu’s undermanned forces and all the allied yakuzas.
It was hard to care a lick about such a mindless and pompous asshole thug like Isamu, and his reunion scenes with a prostitute his gang raped and sold to a brothel had no emotional impact. All the time spent in extreme violence didn’t seem warranted, because it seemed strictly for entertainment purposes.
REVIEWED ON 2/9/2007 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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