A man always pays his debts . . .
the wizard of uz | Studio City, CA United States | 10/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Well, if this film doesn't put hair on your chest, nothing will.Look up 'film noir' in the dictionary and there should be a picture of Robert Mitchum in The Yakuza, alongside Bogie in The Maltese Falcon. It's that good of a film.The theme is about honor, or "giri." The last bastion of manhood in an relativistic world ambivalent towards heroism, unsure about any values, moral or otherwise, and gone to hell.Against this background, you may be a tad on the shady side of the law, but do you keep faith with your friends?
For that matter, would you risk taking a bullet for someone you personally loathe but whom you "owe" because he's saved the life of your wife and child?The plot begins when Mitchum is approached by an old army buddy that he hasn't heard from in decades, save for the annual obligatory Christmas card. His daughter's been kidnapped by Japanese mobsters and he needs his help. As to Mitchum, his character is established in one line.
"You've been successful?"
Mitchum: "That depends on how you figure those things."True enough. He has no family, no friends, no one even remotely close. The film noir loner, now in his sixties. He goes back to Japan, links up with the only woman he ever loved, and the one enemy who can help him gain entry into the dark world of the Yakuza; an ultra-traditionalist latter-day Samurai ( Tanaka Ken ) who "owes" Mitchum. One small problem, he's no longer a Yakuza. He's been out of the mob for years. When Mitchum finds out this unpleasant bit of inforation and blurts out "I can't ask you to do that!" Tanaka Ken quietly replies: "You already have."The aged warriors go to it again. A great story of love and betrayal. Acted in a style of understated whispers between flashing katanas that bring the house down."
A five star movie turned into a three star video ...
Wayne Scott | Atlantic Beach, Florida | 05/29/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The movie is excellent. It really rates 5 stars for its strong plot, acting, direction, and camera work. The theme throughout is honor, and obligation. But pay attention to the "obligation" part. There is the notion that we are defined by our obligations, a concept that is vastly different between east and west. Personally, I think we could use a little more of the Japanese context of obligation in our own society and culture. And this movie's depiction appeals to something in me that is, admittedly, fundamentally romantic.My problem with the video is this: there are omissions from this version that were in the first version I saw. Some footage has been edited out, and although its omission does not adversely affect the story line, it was an effective contribution. Also, there are sections where subtitles are omitted. (My most recent viewing was in the company of a friend who speaks Japanese and English, and they provided their own comments regarding the accuracy, not necessarily of the English rendering, but more on what the Japanese "should" have been in the context.) Mind you, the movie is in English, with some segments of Japanese dialog. But it was disappointing that some of the most eloquent dialog wasn't even translated.Maybe someone, somewhere, will grant my wish and produce an unexpurgated version on DVD ..."
PUT IT ON DVD PLEASE!...
Patrick D. Mayo | Huntington Beach, CA | 06/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have never seen this particular version of the video. I have the original one that came out and guard it jealously! What I cannot understand is why this movie has never been released on DVD!... There are so many underlying themes throughout this movie besides that of the main plot of betrayal by old Army buddies and the honor gained through the loyalty of newly formed friendship between Mitchum and Ken. I've often wondered if I would experience the same feelings Mitchum experienced coming back to Tokyo, if I went back to Saigon and saw those I knew back when I was in Nam. What a feeling to see how much things had changed and yet remained the same. There are many deep themes explored in this movie. Definitely one of Sidney Pollack's more under rated, yet finer films for nuance!... I highly recommend this movie to anyone who wants more than swords and blood."
They Bring a Sword, Then You Bring a Gun! Mitchum Rules!
thedeadlyhandsofkungfu | City of Lost Angeles | 09/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When we were living in New York City, and I was twelve, my Dad told my Mom that he was taking me somewhere for a few hours. To my delight, we ended up at a ratty movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. These were the days before the monster multi-plexes. I can't remember the exact address, but it was a large one room gig that had seen it's better days. From what I could tell, some cool guy had come up with the idea of programming this low-rent theater with old Samurai flicks usually starting with the name Yojimbo...Yojimbo meets the One-Armed Warrior...you get the idea.
So, my Dad is paying for the two of us, and right before we walk inside he leans down and says to me, "You know, this is the closest thing I've ever seen to understanding the differences between the East and West." You gotta understand that my Dad hardly ever said anything. So, this comment blew me away. My attention was riveted. It took me by the collar and pulled my focus away from the windex/old candy odor of the floors, the torn seat cushions where I was sure some old rats called home, and the dirty beach towel someone had hung to keep the light out of the hallway into the "theater."
The movie exceeded my expectations. It all starts with the shot of a gangster with tatoos all over the back of his body. Safe to say, even if you've seen or read the Illustrated Man, you've never seen anything like this before. I mean who the heck would ever let anyone tattoo them from neck to toe? You've basically got it all. Robert Mitchum in his creaky, world-weary mode, delivering lines like a T-Rex with attitude. You've got supporting roles from the likes of Brian Keith who brings a sad, pathetic lining to his double-crossing, gambling freak role. How far you've come from that crappy seventies TV family show--dude, you can act!
Then, you've got a terrific foil for Mitchum in one of Japan's leading actors of all time. The hate between these characters is communicated in a glance, in the quiet way lines are delivered. The two men both loved the same woman--and she only took up with Mitchum's character because she thought her husband was dead. What a sad, true-to-life premise. Circling the three are a band of wolves, the gangsters from this Japanese Organized Crime Syndicate aka The Yakuza.
Hold onto your hat when the bad guys invade the private home and literally mow down the Westerners--sticking a sword in the gut of one guy. I am telling you, when this happened, I thought I could feel the cold metal entering my spleen. It all winds up with a really great take-the-battle-to-the-enemy conclusion where Mitchum goes in with his metal boot kicking down rice paper walls, with two shotguns blazing. The sword work is elegant, terrifying and so real, again, it hurts.
But, the real scene that you will always remember is the denoument, when Mitchum slices off the tip of his finger, what appears to be real perspiration rolling down his forehead, and offers it as a gift to atone for his wrongdoing. I thought about this ending for years. I kept hearing my Dad's voice whispering in my ear outside on the sidewalk...the differences between East and West.
Watch this movie in your best "Lost in Translation" mode. Know that it is an original painting--nothing about it is derivative. Give it a chance to breathe. Ask yourself, what if this were me? Would I walk into a massacre about to happen out of honor? In the end, the message, I think, is that an honorable life is the only way to go for men and women who only have their honor at the end of the day.