A great looking film but, at more than two hours, with the only action flashback glimpses at the start, this one limits it's appeal.
Ken, with a wrapped towel head band, runs a small fishing boat and has become a respected family man in the cost line village. However we know that under his shirt is the yasha demon tattoo that indicates his Yakusa past.
Things are disturbed by the attractive young bar girl who opens the Hataru/Firefly fisherman's cafe.`That woman will suck all their money' the wives mutter.
Sure enough Takeshi Kitano, his character still indistinct, shows up as her old gambler boyfriend with a needle habit. Their presence draws Ken back into his old life in the Oaska underworld. She wants to leave the punk so (giri run amok) asks Ken to save him from the debt that is worth at least an arm. Our troubled hero muttering `I can't let money settle it.' takes his old black gangster suit out of mothballs.
The ending is irresistible, when he tells the girl about his failure and she glows "Yasha went to Osaka for me. I'm glad."
The film has many strengths. It is full of great fishing community images and detail - the small boat going under the motif bridge, the fishing fleet putting out to sea with fires on their decks,dock apparatus become recognizable white outlines under the snow, Takakura's wife draping her shawl over the exposed demon face on his back.
The cast are superior but the commanding element is Takakura at his brooding peak. This is the guy the BLACK RAIN lot wanted us to believe was a suit! It's intriguing to see him playing against Kitano, the next Japanese generation's heavy man.
A pity this material lacks the sharpening that would have made it a tough thriller or an involving character study. What we end up with is an extended star vehicle with scenics - OK but...
Odd to get the Michel Legrand sounding score here. Not at all bad either. Thielemans Toots!
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