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Shozo (Bunta Sugawara) just returned home after the war to find his
hometown has become a place almost as violent as the battlefield. Soon, he
has to kill someone, and even though it was in self defense, he's thrown
into the slammer. There, he meets Wakasugi (Tatsuo Umemiya), yakuza with
Doi's (Hiroshi Nawa) gang, whom he helps to get out of prison - and in
return, Doi pays Shozo's bail. This of course means that Shozo, once out,
becomes a yakuza with Doi himself, and later in Yamamori's (Nobuo Kaneko)
gang, pretty much a spin-off of Doi's organisation, sanctioned by Doi
himself. Involvement in politics however pit Yamamori's and Doi's
respective gangs against each other before long, and out of loyalty to
Yamamori, Shozo eventually agrees to kill Doi. The assassination is rather
successful, but then someone betrays his hideout and ultimately there is
no other option for Shozo than to go to jail again.
´In the meantime,
things change, the yakuza go into drug-running big time, and with the
drugs, the stakes are rising - and in gangland, higher stakes mean a
higher bodycount. Eventually, almost all of Shozo's friends in Yamamori's
gang, especially Wakasugi, his cellmate from back in the day, are killed,
only Sakai (Hiroki Matsukata) is clever enough to get out and build a
rival gang of his own, strongly opposing Yamamori's operation.
years after his arrest, Shozo is released on parole and picked up by
Yamamori - but Yamamori has changed, he is no longer the generous father
figure Shozo remembers, but a treacherous weasel, who asks Shozo on his
first day in freedom to kill Sakai for him. Shozo pretends to agree, but
hasw gown suspicious and decides to hear Sakai out instead, who ultimately
tells him that it was Yamamori's own treachery that got him to jail for
the murder of Doi in the first place. Now Shozo decides to go after
Yamamori, but Yamamori manages to convince him that Sakai is a traitor
after all. Shozo decides to quit yakuza life altogether (and Yamamori's
gang in particular) but go after Sakai on his own terms - but Sakai has
already expected him, has his man capture Shozo, and then wants to drive
out of town to kill him. But on the way, he realizes he can't kill an old
friend just like that, and he lets him go scot-free. Only hours later,
Sakai is killed, riddled by bullets from Yamamori's men.
Shozo comes to
Sakai's funeral to pay his respects, but when he sees all the yakuza
(including Yamamori) attending, people who have wished him death all their
lives, and sees the pompous altar they have put up for him, he gets angry
and destroys the altar, not to disrespect his friend but to disrespect the
yakuza attending ...
A year after Kinji Fukasaku has
revolutionized yakuza cinema with Street
Mobster, he made this film, a film much more epic in approach than
but very similar in style to Street
Mobster, combining almost documentary style footage, frantic
handheld camerawork, intentionally radical changes in mood and pace, and
tons of freezeframes - and maybe, Battles Without Honour and Humanity
is even truer to Fukasaku's own view of yakuza, portraing them as a
treacherous bunch of street punks led by ruthless money grabbers to whom
loyalty and tradition - the driving force of 1960's yakuza cinema - mean
exactly nothing, as crime stinks, and so does everybody who comes into
touch with it. That said, this is still not a message movie but a quite
tense and in its way pretty enjoyable genre thriller that's pretty much a
must-see for everyone interested in gangster cinema.