Yakuza Graveyard

Yakuza Graveyard


Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

A staple of Japanese cinema screens since the silent era, the gangster or yakuza film was becoming increasingly outdated and formulaic by the 1960s. Though some maverick directors, most notably Seijun Suzuki, had attempted to reinvorage the form, their efforts had generally failed to win studio and popular acceptance - Suzuki, for instance, found himself effectively blacklisted for the parodic, ironic, and frankly outre Branded To Kill and was forced to work in television for the better part of a decade.

Enter Kinji Fukasaku. Another prolific studio director who had dabbled in various genres through the 1960s, he decided to present not a deconstruction of the yakuza, but a demythologisation, demonstrating the precise absence of the traditional values amongst the post-war yakuza and signalling a new ethic and aesthetic in the process.

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The first of these jitsoroku eiga or true document films was a great success, prompting a succession of sequels, collectively known as The Yakuza Papers or the Battles Without Honour And Humanity series.

While the series inevitably suffered from diminishing returns at times, Fukasaku was also the kind of filmmaker who could be relied upon to deliver the goods - namely stories ripped raw from the headlines; replete with hard-hitting action and commentary and rendered in a hyper-kinetic style.

At the centre of Yakuza Graveyard is Kuriowa (Tetsuya Watari), a maverick but seemingly incorruptible cop whose superiors assign him to smash the Nishida gang, a relatively small scale outfit whose territories are coveted by the larger Yamashiro gumi.

As Kuriowa goes to work, he first comes into conflict with and then develops a mutual respect for Iwata of the Nishida. Both men have the same basic uncompromising attitude, the only real difference the side of the law that they have been placed upon. Then their mutual status as victims of a conspiracy between Kuriowa's superiors and the Yamashiro comes to light...

Lady Snowblood/Female Prisoner Scorpion herself, Meiko Kaji, co-stars, while iconoclastic director Nagasi Oshima - In the Realm of the Senses - has a small role.

Reviewed on: 31 Oct 2006
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An undercover cop drifts into a gangster lifestyle.
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Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Writer: Kazuo Kasahara

Starring: Tetsuya Watari, Meiko Kaji, Seizo Fukumoto, Takuzo Kawatani, Hideo Murota, Nagisa Oshima, Tatsuo Umemiya

Year: 1976

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


Wild Japan 2006

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If you like this, try:

Branded To Kill