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Nov 27, 2000

Directed by: Seijun Suzuki
Starring: Tetsuya Watari

Part of my effort to bring in rare movies for goons to watch.

A little history about Japanese cinema first:
The postwar period in Japan brought a great deal of new media to Japan. One of which was, of course, film. The modern cinema flourished there for a while, but stagnated as certain genres became too common and studios were unable to break trends while American movies moved in and crushed the studios, where film went underground and eventually transformed into cheaply produced anime. One of the most famous genres of the Japanese new wave, however, was the Yakuza film.

Tokyo Drifter is one of the more famous Yakuza films, directed by Seijun Suzuki, a man vigorously hated by the studios for his attempts to break the molds of the conventions he was forced to work within. Tokyo Drifter, is in fact the film that got him fired as some simply saw it as being too weird. But as most people know, the best stuff to come out of Japan is most often the weirdest.

The story is about a young assassin and his boss, both who have retired from the crime scene after the gang has disbanded. Because the boss was particularly fond of the assassin, he keeps him around as a friend. One day, however, a rival clan makes a move to gain respect within the Yakuza gangs, and thus makes an attempt to blackmail the boss and kill the assassin. What follows is a series of betrayals that leaves no one clean, and a stylish sort of violence that would only mature in years to come and help form the Hong Kong kung fu films.

If you are a big fan of Jean Luc Goddard, or you hate him but only because his poo poo is so goddamn pretentious, then you might like this movie. If you have no idea who the flying gently caress Goddard is, well I can't help you there. It's a film with the jet set crowd in mind, a film for stylish killers on the go, if that's what you'd like to fancy yourself.

It's pretty wild for an early action film, and is at least worth one viewing.


PROS: A stylish example of the popular Japanese gangster films of the 60's and 70's / well-made and well-acted
CONS: Perhaps a bit slow in comparison to today's action films



Jun 14, 2003


One Suzuki's best, some of the action scenes in this film are beautifully orcheatrated, with a kind of theatrical staging similiar to the MGM musicals of the decade before. The use of color and editing really make this look like a comic book, especially the final shoot-out. I really liked the musical theme in the film as well, especially the way different characters would sing from time to time, also a throwback to the musical.

Unlike Branded to Kill, this characters in this film have some sense of morality in this film, and the power stuggles between the crime lords and the reformed group takes on an almost mythical quality, echoing the traditions of the samurai code of bushido.

A minor detail, it was actually Branded to Kill that got Suzuki finally fired by Nikkatsu, but Tokyo Drifter definitely played its part in that.

banned from Starbucks
Jul 18, 2004

Amazing movie about cars going fast in unusual ways.


Lawrence Gilchrist
Mar 31, 2010

A variety of interesting and colorful locations and setpieces. Tetsu Goro The Fox Phoenix and some people you might recognize if you have seen similar films are in here. It's been called a transitional film, and besides the punchy black and white opening it does mix different gangster movie trends from the time very well. The cast and venues shrink in complexity and size until the final white room. A floating head covers her face to match the room. 5/5

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