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'American Yakuza' rises above most of the other b-grade action movies that clog up the video shelves because of its outstanding cast. Viggo Mortensen, is now well on his way to being a major star thanks to Peter Jackson's Tolkien trilogy, but many of us have been following his career for quite some time, since Sean Penn's brilliant 'The Indian Runner' say. Mortensen is excellent as "Nick" an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the Yakuza, and finds himself caught between his obligations and his loyalties, especially when a gang war with the Mob escalates. Ryo Ishbashi ('Audition') plays Sawamoto, the Yakuza who becomes Nick's friend and mentor, and Michael Nouri ('The Hidden') plays Sawamoto's Mafia rival Campanela. The rest of the cast includes comedian Franklyn Ajaye ('Carwash') as Nick's contact, Robert Forster ('Jackie Brown') as his boss, Nicky Katt ('The Limey') as Campanela's right hand man, and Yuji Okumoto ('Brain Smasher... A Love Story') as one of Sawamoto's crew. This is by no means the best crime thriller I've ever seen but thanks to the great cast I enjoyed watching it. Definitely worth a rental this one.
Nice cinematography, catchy music. The action sequences are better than
most cable movies, but not quite Woo, Cameron, or McTiernan.
I personally enjoyed the plot. I like the conflicted feelings an undercover cop feels when torn between loyalty to friends and duty. (Or actually the conflict the viewers feel.) And IMHO I think the story is also above average for typical cable actioners.
The plot offers very few surprises. It is a standard B-movie plot with
However, two things raise this movie from the usual B-movie fare.
First, both Viggo Mortensen and Ryo Ishibashi turn in understated, yet thoughtful, performances that create chemistry and add a dimension of believability to their characters beyond what simply appears on-screen.
Second, creative camera angles and striking visuals lend an air of intelligence and elegance to many of the key scenes in the movie.
When Nick Davis (Viggo Mortensen) leaves prison after one year in
solitaire, he is hired to operate forklift in a warehouse in the harbor
owned by the Japanese Yakuza patriarch Isshin Tendo (John Fujioka). The
place is assaulted by the Italian Mafia leaded by Dino Campanela
(Michael Nouri) and Nick rescues and saves the life of Shuji Sawamoto
(Ryo Ishibashi), who is the representative of Yakuza interests in
America. Shuji hires Nick to work for Yakuza and becomes his godfather
in the family after his oath to join Yakuza. However, Nick is a lonely
FBI undercover agent assigned to penetrate in the criminal
organization. When the FBI discovers that Campanela is organizing a
massive attack to destroy the Yakuza, Nick's boss Littman (Robert
Foster) calls off the operation to leave the dirty work to the Italian
Mafia. But the connection of Nick with Shuji and his goddaughter Yuko
(Cristina Lawson) forces him to help his Japanese family.
I have just watched maybe for the sixth time the underrated "American Yakuza", one of the best movies of Yakuza movies with a solid dramatic story of code of honor and a beautiful romance. I became a fan of Viggo Mortensen after watching this movie in the 90's: his character is very well developed in one sentence of his liaison Sam, when he explains that David Brandt is a needy man without family that gives a great value to honor and does not admit betrayal. The screenplay is sharp and the production is classy, supported by magnificent direction and performances and an awesome soundtrack. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "American Yakuza"
A story of a police who infiltrates inside Yakuza which has business in US soil. But soon he discovers the beauty and respect of family he's offered place in.. Companela's guys, Italian mafiosos are seen arrogant and dumb, while Japanese criminals are somewhat peace loving; a bit too romantic setting. But still, not bad setting. Ryo Ishibashi acts well as Japanese Yakuza, and Viggo Mortensen is ever so cool.
Another interesting part for Viggo Mortensen. Tracking down his movies is an adventure. He does choose some unusual and fascinating characters to play. Although I don't think this one is exactly play for him; he goes for the gut. He is really in deep. I had to watch this film (DVD) twice to get some of the dialogue, and I wish I spoke Japanese, but it was worth it. (Viggo, with his laconic accent needs to be miked better.) The plot is complicated and there seems to be a plethora of doublecrossing, double dealing bad guys - even the so-called good guys.... but then you should watch this flick. There is some terrific acting all around. And plenty of action.
American Yakuza is a story of an FBI agent named David Brandt (Viggo
Mortensen) who poses as Nick Davis and infiltrates the Japanese Yakuza.
This is written in the plot outline but it seems to be a twist in the
story about a 3rd of the way through. While on the job, Nick helps the
Yakuza when they are surprise attacked by the Mafia. After fending off
the attackers he saves the life of Shuji Sawamoto (Ryo Ishibashi), who
just happens to be a high ranking Yakuza member. It is here that they
establish a friendship and an eventual spot in the Yakuza for Nick
For the most part, I enjoyed the story which pits the FBI against the Yakuza against the Mafia. You never know which way the tide is going to turn.
As for the acting, the major players were great. Viggo Mortensen and Ryo Ishibashi did a good job in their leading roles. Some of the smaller parts could have used some work but overall, I enjoyed this movie and came out of it with no major complaints. 7/10
What a fantastic action B-movie with a very interesting plot. Viggo Mortenson saves the life of a Yakuza and wins his trust and respect. Of course it's action but the whole movie shows how important friendship is and for what the tradition of the Yakuza stays. Michael Nouri from "Flashdance" and "The Hidden" and "Jackie Brown"-Star Robert Forster are also in this interesting movie. Don't miss it!
American Yakuza was a very good film when i bought it i thought it would just be an action film i was wrong. it is much more than just a run of the mill action movie it has a intriguing plot good acting and some good action.Viggo Mortensen stars as Nick Davis an FBI agent sent undercover in the Yakuza.Whilst undercover he becomes friends with the boss and becomes more and more loyal.i like Viggo Mortensen his films are normally good and so is his acting especially in this film. the action is decent and well directed but thats not what American Yakuza is about it is about drama and how characters are developed. the director did a good job as well with some stylish tricks with the camera. to end the review i thought American Yakuza was a very well made film with most of the actors on top form and good directing makes me give 9 out of 10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My brother Adam and I were extras on this movie set. (We were in the climactic big shoot 'em up scene at the end when Nicky Katt brought Michael Nouri the bloody shoes) Viggo was really nice to us and went as far as to sit with us for a couple of meals during the shoot. Very cool guy. Who knew he would eventually play Aragorn in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy?? I read Huckleberry Finn between takes, sheltering myself from grips and prop masters under a wardrobe trailer. Cool huh? Good times........yep. Good times. One thing of interest was watching Mr. Mortenson work up the emotion to do the scene where he had to carry his dead partner down the stairs to the waiting throng of police. He was very convincing in the actual scene, and the process of watching him prep himself for the scene (on an emotional level) was absolutely fascinating.
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