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Nihon Boryoku-dan: Kumicho

Japan Organized Crime Boss

Japan 1969
produced by
Koji Ota, Koji Shundo for Toei
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
starring Koji Tsuruta, Bunta Sugawara, Noboru Ando, Ryohei Uchida, Tomisaburo Wakayama
written by Norio Osada, Fumio Konami, Kinji Fukasaku, music by Masanobu Higure

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Yakuza Tsukamoto (Koji Tsuruta) has just been released from prison and is looking forward to a quiet life - when the boss of his gang is killed by a rival gang and names him his successor with his dying breath. Tsukamoto wants to end the gang war with the rival gang, especially after he finds out that both his and the other gang are just proxies in a gangwar Danno clan versus Tokyo Alliance - but figures to not lose face he has to kill the boss of the rival gang, a task that his second-in-command (Bunta Sugawara) takes out of his hands on his own initiative, even if it costs his life.

To bring peace to the region, Tsukamoto figures it's time to cut ties with the Danno clan, even if that means breaking up with his blood brother Tsubaki (Ryohei Uchida). Tsubaki soon finds a replacement for Tsukamoto's gang though, the gang of Miyahara (Tomisaburo Wakayama), but while Tsukamoto is an old-school Yakuza, Miyahara is a coke-snorting punk, and his gang a bunch of loose cannons, and thus the two gangs get into troubles with one another soon enough, troubles that are only resolved when Tsukamoto alone stands up to Miyahara and his whole gang, winning their respect if nothing more.

When Miyahara's gang attacks one of their rival gangs at the Danno clan's request, that rival gang decides to activate hitman Oobu (Noboru Ando), an one-armed man hell-bent on killing Danno - yet he fails, but gravely injured he finds a hiding place with Tsukamoto's gang ... but leaves this hiding place soon enough out of honour, only to be executed by Danno's men.

Both the Danno clan and the Tokyo Alliance have ties to high-up politicians who actually pull the strings - and now they order the gangs to strike a permanent truce - which means the gangs have to cut off loose ends like eliminating Miyahara's and Tsukamoto's gang. Only Tsukamoto survives rather by chance, and now he wants, he needs to have his revenge, his satisfaction, and goes after Danno himself at an official gathering. Tsubaki, his erstwhile blood borther and later rival, seems to try to stop him but only gives him better access to Danno at the cost of his own life ... but while Tsukamoto is able to slaughter Danno, he - literally - doesn't even get into arm's reach of the politician behind the whole gangwar, and after he is already apprehended by the police, the cops step back and let one of Danno's men shoot him to avoid embarrassement.

 

Interesting gangster flick that marries the gangster with a code of honour of traditional yakuza cinema with the more realistic image of the gangster as a violent punk born out of economic necessity that Japanese yakuza movies would adopt in the 1970's, thanks largely to the director of this film, Kinji Fukasaku, himself.

On an aesthetic level, this movie is likewise a break with tradition, leaving behind the highly stylized yakuza-image of old for documentary-style narrative sequences, dynamic handheld camerawork and traces of Italian neo-realism every now and again.

That all said, compared to Fukasaku's yakuza-masterpieces from the 1970's, this is still a pretty traditional and in a way run-of-the-mill effort, tu it's interesting to watch it as a transitional film, and above all it's simply good genre entertainment.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
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written by
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starring
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