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Nihon kyokaku-den (1964)

A timber merchant and haulage firm in late 19th century Tokyo is in trouble. The widowed lady owner is being threatened by a scheming competitor who is offering much cheaper labour. X has ... See full summary »




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kinnosuke Nakamura ... Seiji
... Chokichi
Hiroki Matsukata ... Gun Tiger
... Tsurumatsu
Hiroyuki Nagato
Murasaki Fujima ... Oyanagi
Junko Fuji ... Ofumi
... Kumeji
Yoshiko Mita ... Osaki
Yusaburo Ii ... Kibamatsu
Chôchô Miyako ... Oshima
Masahiko Tsugawa ... Bonbon's man
Keiichiro Shimada ... Eyeball's Crest
Yoshihiro Igarashi ... High Collar's Man


A timber merchant and haulage firm in late 19th century Tokyo is in trouble. The widowed lady owner is being threatened by a scheming competitor who is offering much cheaper labour. X has just left the army, and his buddies in the firm beg him to rejoin them as second in command, which he does. Thus emboldened, the firm tries to make a deal to stay in business, which launches a serious turf war. Written by sharptongue

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Japanese Yakuza  »

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User Reviews

Historical setting livens up standard yakuza yarn
24 April 2013 | by See all my reviews

Takakura and Nakamura made hundreds of yakuza-themed flicks and they can be depended upon to make them watchable. This one is just a little unusual, in that it is set not in the present day or the old samurai days, but in the late Meiji period, where Western influences are just starting on the fringes.

The dull title bothers me. The Japanese Yakuza is a direct translation of the original title. It looks as though they finished the script and couldn't be bothered calling it something more specific, perhaps like Battle Of The Teamsters, for the setting is about the only thing that sets this movie apart from any gangster melodrama. It is just one more indication of a fairly small production budget.

There are surprises. Takakura's character returns after a long break to a gang in disarray, perhaps due to the death of the old man. Surely the gang members would resent him stepping into the underboss position. Instead, they literally beg him to accept the position. The yakuza members know and clearly respect him, but he needs guidance in the yakuza way, which he seeks from Nakamura's character. So he was well-known to them, but not previously a member of the gang, and he reluctantly steps in as an underboss. Very odd.

Although Takakura was at the top of his game in the mid-60s, this movie is by no means a star vehicle. Nakamura claims as much screen time, and the story gives quite a number of the support characters decent attention as well. So we have a top star appearing in a low-budget nearly ensemble piece. Odd.

The rival gang seems to represent Western Influences. They act with dishonour by offering cheap labour, breaking an age-old agreement to treat their long-suffering workers with a modicum of respect. Takakura asserts his new authority by barging into a negotiating session of the bosses, giving a speech about honour and the old ways. But the rival gang stir up trouble and play dirty tricks, so fights with fists and knives of course break out.

Almost by definition, overacting is hard to avoid in a yakuza picture. While cool calculation has its place, punks join and stay in the yakuza to be hotheads. Their women exhort them to Be A Man, so if things don't get feverish often, it just ain't a gangster flick. Nevertheless, performances are solid and believable.

The Japanese Yakuza is an obscure and rare film, and I thank The Japan Foundation for giving it a screening. That said, it is a competent outing and no more than that. Takakura and Nakamura make it worth watching, but it ain't no classic.

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