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From early childhood on, Ishikawa (Tetsuya Watari) wanted to be a
yakuza, and his ambition soon lands him in jail. Once out soon after the
end of World War II, he joins Kawada's (Hajime Hana) gang, but is such a
hothead that he gets himself and his gang into trouble a lot, so much so
that he repeatedly has to apologize to his godfather and his godfather's
boss Nozu (Noboru Ando), a yakuza who wants to make it big in politics.
Usually, they forgive him, too, but it gets harder and harder for Ishikawa
to accept their patronizing attitude towards him. So eventually, he blows
up Nozu's car, just to make his point, and when Kawada wants to force him
to apologize by having him beaten up, he attacks and severely injures
Kawada. Initially, Ishikawa tries to run but then gives himself up to the
police, just to escape yakuza wrath.
After he is released from prison
about two years later, Ishikawa is expelled from the yakuza world for 10
years, and only thanks to the help of former cellmate gangboss Imai
(Tatsuo Umemiya) is he not killed but manages to escape town to head for
Osaka. In Osaka, where he's a nobody, he soon falls to the lure of heroin
After a mere year of banishment, Ishikawa returns to Tokyo, but with
his newly developed drug habit he has become even more of a troublemaker
than before, and eventually he even kills Imai, who has to the last tried
everything in his power to keep Ishikawa out of harm's way. It's not long
before the police track him down and arrest him with the help of the
yakuza, and only his girlfriend Chieko (Yumi Takigawa), a prostitute,
remains by his side, and she works her ass off to pay his bail, even
though her health is failing. Ishikawa eventually marries her, but ten
days later she dies. Ishikawa begins to see the error of his ways only
then, and begins to make amends in a clumsy manner, but ultimately, he is
cornered next to his wife's gravestone by a group of low-rank yakuza who
violently stab him again and again and almost kill him - but only almost,
Ishikawa survives to serve his prison term.
Once out, Ishikawa finds
nothing worth living for anymore and ultimately throws himself off a
building to his death ...
In the 1970's, firector Kinji
Fukasaku seemingly has set out to single-handedly destroy the image of the
noble yakuza, the glamourous gangster - and this film is pretty much the
climax of his taking apart the genre: There is nothing glamourous about
its hero anymore, he starts as a lowlife who's nihilistic by definition
and has no other goal but to become a yakuza godfather, but instead of
that he is sent on a downward spiral and never even comes into striking
distance of his goal until he takes his life jumping from a building in
pyjamas - one of the most glamour-free endings of the yakuza genre as
In all, Graveyard of Honour is certainly one of Kinji Fukasaku's
more depressing films, but it's a very well-directed film as well, again
profiting from the director's trademark verité style, full of mock
documentary inserts, sudden outbursts of violence, changes in mood and
pace, freezeframes and the like, which all fall into place terribly well
here once more.