Stylish and well shot Miike gangster film from the same year as Dead or Alive Final and Sabu. Jump cuts galore, and a badass tone that outdoes Outrage. Based on a Fukusaku film from the 70’s – Miike’s first remake? He’s done a couple more lately, with 13 Assassins and Harakiri.
Ishimatsu (Goro Kishitani, lately in Like a Dragon and Crows Zero) is already a violent sociopath when he enters yakuza life, recruited from his dishwashing job after saving the boss man Sawada (Shingo Yamashiro of the original Graveyard of Honor) from an assassination attempt. Fond of murder and rape, he fits right in, but his new bosses don’t realize just how much of a loose cannon he’ll be.
Ishi in his element:
He’s locked up early on after an assignment to kill a guy who stirred up trouble in a gambling parlor, and in prison makes friends with scar-faced Imamura. Also at some point he gets rape victim Harumi Inoue (star of Freeze Me) to marry him. After a misunderstanding when Ishi wants his money right fucking now and thinks the godfather (who is at the dentist) is avoiding him, he whups everyone’s ass, and cracks the skull of middle man Yuwada (Renji Ishibashi, below, always receiving dentist-related injuries in movies, played the mob boss who got shoddy oral surgery from Kitano in Outrage).
This is bad for sure, and it’s possible that Ishi could run some damage control or do some kind of penance, but he wants his fucking money, busts into the boss’s house and shoots Sawada, who was reaching for the cash to pay Ishi. Oops, another misunderstanding, and now Ishi stays on the run, sheltered by his friend Imamura.
I think this is Imamura, but a second scar-faced character was placed in the movie to confuse me:
A detective (Rikiya Yasuoka of Tampopo) gets involved. Goons beat up Ishi’s wife and he wails on their faces with a metal pipe. Another misunderstanding and Ishi stabs his friend. Yakuzas panic, fingers are cut off, tear gas is fired, and finally he lets himself be captured, later knocking out a guard in prison then climbing a tower and jumping to his death, unleashing a typically Miike-overkill rainstorm of blood.
What makes it different from most of its forebears is that Takashi Miike works to avoid any intimations of a narrative arc. Instead of setting up a pattern of hubris and comeuppance, Miike organizes the film as an accumulation of detail, with a special preoccupation with how things work: the way yakuza from different families forge alliances, how a prisoner can give himself salmonella to get into the infirmary, how the body reacts to heroin. For all the instructive, caught-in-the-moment observation, though, it is a frighteningly amoral film, less an object lesson in criminal psychopathology than an attempt to meet that psychopath on his level.
Ishi makes his “escape” from prison: