Yakuza, The (1974)

“Ken is a relic — a leftover of another age, of another country…”

Yakuza Poster

Synopsis:
Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) goes to Japan to help rescue his friend’s kidnapped daughter from the Yakuza. While there, he rekindles an old romance with Eiko (Keiko Kishi), and must deal with the disapproval of her brother Ken (Takakura Ken).

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Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this sporadically violent film is more about friendship, loyalty, and cultural differences than gangs and revenge. An unusually perceptive thriller with excellent acting all around (especially by Mitchum and Ken), The Yakuza keeps getting better as it goes along; by the end, I was nearly weeping. A particularly poignant and unexpected plot twist places the rest of the movie in a different light, and makes one tempted to watch the film again from the beginning.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Exciting fight sequences as Mitchum and Ken take on countless Yakuza
  • Ken and Harry’s touching final scene together

Must See?
Yes. This unusual gangster flick is an all around “good show”, and shouldn’t be missed.

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One Response to “Yakuza, The (1974)”

  1. A must. I have just seen it again – and I forgot how good this film is! Pollack once said that his main interest as a director is in doing love stories – and, in many of his films, it’s intriguing to see the way that theme branches out. Here, there is, of course, the surface love story between Mitchum and Keiko Kishi. However, that sort of takes a back seat to the growing (non-sexual) devotion between Mitchum and Ken Takakura.

    As noted, the film has a clever plot twist – but then there’s another. This oddly bittersweet script (considering its genre) is very carefully constructed by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne from a story by Schrader’s brother Leonard. Years later, the Schraders would collaborate on ‘Mishima’, another must. (In ‘The Yakuza’, James Shigeta’s line about Takakura being “a relic leftover from another age, another country” seems to reveal a budding interest in the famous Japanese author.)

    Gripping throughout, even in its more talky sections, the film captures the mood and locales of Japan extremely well. Seeing it again made me nostalgic. (As well, I recall that, in the ’80s, there was something of a renewed vigor in yakuza films in Japan, but I believe a number of the memorable ones were not exported.)

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