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Acting boss Hirotani of the Ohara gang uses his friendship with corrupt cop Kuno to usurp a staged land deal that rival yakuza gang Kawade had arranged through local politicians. Open warfare erupts between the two gangs.
The third film in Kinji Fukasaku's unremitting, sprawling, epic yakuza series, made up of five films shot in Japan between 1973 and 1974. The first film, BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY, I thought was pretty good, but a bit confusingly plotted which worked against it. The sequel, Hiroshima Death Match, was excellent in its plotting of Sonny Chiba and his grudge match and a big improvement over the first.
PROXY WAR is a slight step down from Hiroshima Death Match, but only slight. This is an effective tale that draws you deep into the yakuza underworld as it explores rivalry between various factions and the sort of violent, day-to-day incidents that make up gangster warfare. I found that series lead Bunta Sugawara had a much clearer role this time around, and gets to do plenty of quality acting as the conflicted, hard-headed man of violence.
As is the norm with this series, Fukasaku's production values are top notch and the pace is lightning fast. I particularly liked the vignettes of non-stop violence that reveal the brutality of yakuza warfare. The supporting, all-star cast is exemplary and PROXY WAR makes a particular effort with the characterisation this time around so that the heads of the families and the underbosses are no longer just names and faces but living, breathing people. I look forward to the fourth instalment, POLICE TACTICS.
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