An ode to self-destruction and alienation in the form of a brooding yakuza movie
Who said only Americans had the right to remake, defile or reinterpret, their crime classics? By adding a new 40-minute third act on Kinji Fukasaku's original 1975 film Takashi Miike firmly leans towards the second option. A reinterpetation faithful in spirit and gritty hardboiled realism to the original yet still as much a Miike film as anything else he's done, this reflected in the Japanese title of the movie ('New' Graveyard of Honor), in itself perhaps a tribute to Fukasaku's sequel series 'New' Battles Without Honor and Humanity, and the numerous gonzo stylistic flashes that fully complement the hand-held hyperkinetic style Fukasaku pioneered and which Miike here reintroduces, not in an attempt to ape the original film and not to the extent that Fukasaku used that style nor with the same deftness, but as a visual technique Miike makes his own for the duration of the film.
As with the original film, the emphasis here is not on a Scarface-like rags-to-riches arch but on downfall, one long unbroken fall from grace, an ode to self-destruction and alienation as only the Japanese know how to do them. The brooding yakuza protagonist finds himself in a vicious endless cycle of violence as meaningless as the catalyst that kicked it into motion (a two-hour visit at the dentist by his boss) and there's no bottom or depth low enough for him to sink to.
Miike follows all this in a sombre distanced way, allowing the brutal stabbings and shootings to take place without either glorifying or shying away from them, this helped to a good degree by a languid jazzy score and a lack of depth or dimension to the supporting characters or indeed the protagonist. We don't know these people. We don't know any more about the protagonist after two hours than we did after he first stops a yakuza hit-man by breaking a chair on his head. He goes about killing people and shooting dope, stopping only long enough to rape his girlfriend or signal to the cops that he's out of bullets.
Miike being Miike, the movie is still crazy and OTT, as though he doesn't want us to take it anymore serious than we need to. I'm a big fan of yakuza pictures and Miike's Graveyard remake ranks highly among them, quite possibly the best of the several he's done. More than two hours long, the movie feels epic without ever calling attention to itself as such. Miike is not doing THE GODFATHER any more than he's doing SCARFACE. Curiously for a remake and especially compared to slick Hollywood gangster movies or quirky crimedies, Graveyard is original above all else. If I have a problem with it, is only in the hard edge of the video look on which Miike (probably for reasons of budget) insists on shooting, and that 15 minutes could've been trimmed for tightness.
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