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Gendai Yakuza: Hito-kiri Yota

Street Mobster
Modern Yakuza: Outlaw Killer

Japan 1972
produced by
Toei
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
starring Bunta Sugawara, Noboru Ando, Mayumi Nagisa, Asao Koike, Noboru Mitani, Keijiro Morokado, Asao Uchida, Nobuo Yana, Kyosuke Mashida, Hideo Murota
written by Kinji Fukasaku, Yoshihiro Ishimatsu, music by Toshiaki Tsushima

Modern Yakuza

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Isamu (Bantu Sugawara), a young punk and leader of a street gang, is released from prison and returns to his gang - to learn it has thrown in with Takigawa's (Keijiro Morokado) yakuza organisation, and in prison, Isamu has learned to distrust and hate the yakuza. However, Isamu accepts ex-yakuza Kizaki (Asao Koike) into his gang, to advice him on how to break up with Takigawa and remain independent (and alive). This all leads to a small gang war between Isamu's gang and Takigawa's organisation, until Isamu is injured and almost killed. Enter yakuza boss Yato (Noboru Ando), Takigawa's rival and sworn enemy, who sees to it that Isamu's life is saved and he comes back to strength - but in return, he swallows up Isamu and gang into his organisation. The deal seems to be beneficial even for Isamu, who gets his own territory, earns some nice money, and controls quite a few clubs in the area. But things are too peaceful for him, and since there is no more action on the streets, he just sleeps around - much to the dismay of his girlfriend Kinuyo (Migumi Nagisa), a girl he has once sold into prostitution but who against all odds has fallen in love with him and donated her blood when he was on the verge of dying. Now Kinuyo threatens to kill herself should he not change and remain faithful to her - and thus, Isamu creates an incident between his gang and the Takigawa gang that does also include superboss Owada (Asao Uchida), who wants to take over all the local gangs, and in the aftermath of this event, Isamu even breaks up with Yato, who has long come to an agreement with Owada and with Takigawa, and now demands that Isamu cuts off a finger to make amends to Owada, just like he himself has done, actually. Yato only refrains from erradicating Isamu's gang because the young hothead reminds him of himself years ago ...

Kizaki has been a loyal second-in-command to Isamu for the longest time, but after breaking up with Yato, which he considered a mistake, he sees no more way to properly serve him and wants out. Isamu lets Kizaki go without hesitation and without punishing him in the least - but Kizaki doesn't get far and is gunned down by Takigawa's men ...

Isamu and the few men still loyal to him hide out in an abandoned warehouse, when Yato, Takigawa and Owada arrive. Isamu wants to fight his way out, just like he always did, but when his men falter, he decides to give himself up for their sake, and doesn't even mind that the yakuza beat him to a pulp. Enter girlfriend Kinuyo, who only wanted to bring Isamu some food, but witnessing the situation at hand, she now attacks his assailants - and is brutally slaughtered before his very eyes. This pushes Isamu over the edge, and he picks up a knife and kills everybody within arm's reach, including Yato, actually, the only one of the yakuza who ever stuck out his neck for him. Eventually though, Isamu is brutally gunned down without having changed a thing, as Takigawa will just take over Yato's territory in cold blood ...

 

Being the sixth and final film in any series (in this case the Modern Yakuza-series) doesn't sound promising by definition, yet this is a seminal film in both the career of director Kinji Fukasaku and yakuza-cinema as such, as it moves the genre away from the gangster with a code of honour of previous decades that pretty much made the genre so far to the (in lack of a better word) street punk variety of films that would eventually become the new direction the yakuza film went into, with Fukasaku being responsible for quite a few genre masterpieces over the next few years. In terms of directorial effort, Fukasaku takes his style that combined documentary-like sequences, dynamic camerawork (including many a handheld sequence), unusual cameraangles and sudden change of pace (without harming the film's overall pacing) to new extremes, also something he would refine even more in later films, and the film was also the star-making movie for Bunta Sugawara, who gives an intense yet weirdly likeable portrait of his violent and essentially evil character with a predilection for rape, a likeability he builds on the character's sincerity as opposed to the yakuza's penchant for treachery and double-crossing.

In short, even if you're only remotely interested in yakuza films or gangster cinema in general, this one's a must-see.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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written by
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