In America, they call it the Mafia... In Japan they call it Yakuza. When they meet they call it war! Viggo Mortensen (G.I. Jane) and Michael Nouri (The Hidden) star in this explosive action-thriller about the first America... more »n accepted into the savage brotherhood of Japan's criminal underworld. Sent to infiltrate the American arm of the Yakuza, FBI agent Nick Davis (Mortensen) rises through the ranks of assassins and is soon adopted into the powerful Tendo crime family. His work brings him into brutal conflict with not only the Italian mob, but also a hard-nosed FBI taskforce guided by unscrupulous Agent Littman (Robert Forster). Caught dead center in a war between the Yakuza, the mob, and the FBI, Davis must decide what's more important: his old loyalties--or his new bond of blood.« less
Extremely well done - but avoid plot spoling reviews!!
Lisa Shea | 03/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a huge, huge fan of things Japanese. I ran a feudal Japan special interest group for Mensa for 12 years, writing and researching all aspects of samurai, ninja, and so on. So I pretty much see any Japanese-related movie I can get my hands on.In American Yakuza, Viggo Mortensen plays Nick Davis/David Brandt - an ex-con that gets wrapped up in the Yakuza. Yakuza are the Japanese mob, and they are having issues with the American mob. There is a lot of culture-clash going on, and love interest. Ryo Ishibashi is the co-star from the Japanese side.Don't be put off by the roughness of Viggo's character at the beginning. There some AMAZING plot twists in store, and the level of acting and scriptwriting is just amazing. It's a real movie about real people - the fights are all quite realistic, the way people react to each other is amazing. The revelations at the end make you literally want to watch the entire movie a second time to watch for things you missed the first time around.Key Warning: Do NOT READ the blurbs on the box or the reviews that divulge what happens in the ending part of the movie. You ruin the entire meaning behind the movie if you go into it knowing what is going to happen. You need to watch it pretty much blind the first time, and let things unfold for you. If you do, you will be well rewarded. There are many things I'd love to praise in particular about Viggo's acting in this one but to do so would be to ruin the movie. So watch it and see for yourself."
hachimenreirou | Flagstaff, AZ USA | 07/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film was a brilliant surprise in comparison to the many "mafia", and "karate" movies available today. This film was an intelligent, alternative to the standard "shoot first and ask questions later", action films that are so popular in the nineties. Viggo Mortensen plays a character that was released from prison, and accidentally saves a member of the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) and thereby achieves a high status within the Yakuza. And this is just the beginning of one of the richest action movie plots in the last century. Not only do the actors give incredible, believable performances, but the plot is plausible as well. I will not go into further details on the plot for fear of giving something away, but suffice it to say, it is filled with twists, turns, surprises, and REALISTIC dialogue. My highest recommendation of this film is that their action scenes are not exaggerated. They are things that could realistically happen. No one, out-runs explosions, no one dodges an unheard of amount of bullets, and the characters don't all blow things up first and ask questions later. The characters have depth, and are intelligent, and very well acted. I cannot stress enough that this is a quality piece of film, far beyond the capacity of most action films. If you are in the mood for tense, and electrifying action that is plausible and realistic see this movie!"
Honor, loyalty, trust?
Paul Fogarty | LA, United States | 04/05/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Are the themes skillfully woven throughout this tale of warfare between the Japanese Yakuza and the Italian/American Mafia, which is helped along by a crooked FBI agent. The plot is fairly straightforward, and what would normally be a `surprise' element, the identity of the undercover FBI man, is given to us right up front, in the Amazon review above, and on the back of the DVD case, so it's no surprise when you see him reporting to his liaison in a commercial freezer. What sets this film apart from the usual "mob" or "chop-socky" fare, is the focus of the film; how an agent can go so deeply undercover that he loses his way, and identifies completely with his "targets." This has been handled before; undoubtedly the best film of its kind has got to be Al Pacino's "Donnie Brasco," co-staring Johnny Depp. But "Brasco" had the advantage of two stellar stars at the top of their form, and a story, no matter how incredible it seemed at times, that was based on real events.The main strength of "American Yakuza," and in my humble opinion the reason the film will either work for you or won't, are the performances of, and the developing relationship between, the two main characters, played by Viggo Mortensen, and Ryo Ishibashi.Mortensen plays FBI Agent David Brandt, playing ex-con and hardened criminal, Nick Davis, while Ishibashi plays senior Yakuza lieutenant "Chui" Sawamoto. Brandt's working in a warehouse, driving a forklift truck, but his real job, as unlikely as it may see - what with him being a blond Caucasian an' all, the FBI must have been all out of Japanese agents that week! - is to somehow infiltrate the Tendo crime family, who use the warehouse as a front for their nefarious activities. A perfect opportunity presents itself when Brandt practically stumbles into an attempted "hit" on the head of the family itself, Isshin Tendo. In helping foil the hit he directly saves the life of Sawamoto, Tendo's right-hand-man, and nurses him back to health in a rat-hole motel room. Once he's sure Sawamoto is going to live, he makes a call which brings the surviving Yakuza running, guns drawn and trigger fingers twitching, to reclaim their compatriot. Brandt wisely watches the action from a diner opposite the building, a move that undoubtedly stops him ending up as co-lateral damage!Sawamoto now owes Brandt/Davis his life, and slowly brings him into the Yakuza organization, putting him into increasingly responsible and stressful situations, testing his newfound friend. But all is not wine and roses in the Yakuza family; some of Sawamoto's underlings are not at all happy with their boss bringing the American "gaijan" into the fold. He has to prove himself, and this he does, slowly but surely, `til he is at last accepted as a full member of the Tendo family.As Brandt becomes more and more accepted by the Yakuza, and increasingly drawn into their ethos of honor and duty, he finds himself more and more at odds with the actions and plans of his bosses in the FBI. They make a strategic alliance with the Mob; in as much as they won't interfere to stop the Mob taking out the Yakuza... where will Brandt's loyalties lie? This is the central question of the film. As I said before, the relationship between Brandt and Sawamoto is what makes or breaks this film; Mortensen and Ishibashi give the parts their all. The basic set-up is interesting, a kind of Mexican Standoff, the FBI, the Mob, and the Yakuza. And the way each group is portrayed brings a smile to the lips; the FBI is, in turns, stupid and duplicitous, the Mob are loud, back-slapping, cigar-chomping, foulmouthed scum - no doubt from "New Joisey!" - and the Yakuza? The Yakuza are cool! They wear really sharp black suits and white shirts, they're well groomed, they have a genuine code of honor and duty they live and die by, they are unfailingly polite to each other, and when Sawamoto verbally lashes out at subordinates who fail him, you just know its gotta hurt!The film is well constructed, with more than a nod towards John Woo in the action scenes; double fisted gunplay and slow-mo shots of spent cartridges dropping to the floor. There's a romantic sub-plot that works well in the context of the story, and one particular scene where the camera swoops through a set of double doors into a white-draped room for a Yakuza ceremony that is really quite beautifully done. The final scene, after the obligatory climactic gun battle, is unexpectedly moving. There is much to enjoy in this perfect little jewel of a B Movie that aspires to be so much more, and I recommend it highly.PLEASE NOTE: There is nothing in the "Technical Information" section of the Amazon review, or on the DVD case itself, about the Aspect Ratio of this film. It is presented in Full Screen, 1.33:1, although it doesn't appear to have been Panned `n' Scanned."
Class, Quality and Style.
hachimenreirou | 02/27/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is only for those who can appreciate "real" cinema. It respects Japanese tradition, and utililizes the martial art's "Codes of Honor". The story itself is well written, with plot twists, suprises and a gratifying conclusion. The director's guidance and the cinematographer's visionary skills are to be praised as well. However, the true mastery in this piece is in the acting. Viggo Mortensen and his counterpart Ryo Ishibashi deserve the highest marks. Their realistic, on-screen duo performance makes Gibson and Glover in Lethal Weapon and Tucker and Chan in Rush Hour, pale in comparison. Overall, I highly recommend American Yakuza as a solid piece of work, for all discerning film-goers."
Great action, but more...
hachimenreirou | 11/24/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Honor and loyalty are the stories here, beyond the action of the Mafia-Yakuza warfare theme. The "war" keeps you on the edge of your seat, but the emotional conflict made it more than just another action movie. Viggo Mortensen and Ryo Ishibashi are excellent together onscreen. One of my favorite movies."