Friday, July 29, 2011

5 Yakuza Movies for Custard (a blahblahblahgay list)

So, Custard of frontroomcinema fame asks and Custard gets! My review of Outrage prompted a question on what Yakuza movies to watch and this happened in my head. Go blahblahblahhead.

5 Yakuza Movies to Watch Before Autoreiji

1. Yojimbo (1961) Akira Kuroswa

No list of Yakuza movies would be complete without a Kurosawa/Mifune film and this one is fantastic. I see no need to tell you about the wonder of Kurosawa.

A ronin without a name plays two warring crime lords off against each other in a small town in need of protection and then stuff happens but I don't want to give spoilers.

A beautiful looking film heavily influenced by hard boiled film noir and westerns and was notably remade as the Clint Eastwood classic A Fistful of Dollars.

2. Tokyo Drifter (1966) Seijun Suzuki

Seijun Suzuki was the significant director in the 'Romantic Gangster Films' movement in the 1960's. Tired of the formulaic plots and he began to portray the yakuza and their code of conduct as similar in world outlook to the salaryman working for the good of the country. In Suzuki's films, the yakuza consume each other in bizarre rituals; attempts to gain total power or climb the ranks of hitmen.

A gang tries to recruit a ronin, he refuses and assassins are sent for him, crosses and double-crosses abound.

The film seems to delight in its mayhem and is highly stylised in its violence, bringing to mind 60's European cinema.

3. Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1973) Kinji Fukasaku

Groundbreaking ultra-violent, documentary style film set in post war Hiroshima from the director of Battle Royale as part of the 1970's move towards brutal realism in yakuza films.

Spanning a period of ten years it follows the tribulations of a minor street thug through the futility of the yakuza lifestyle of constant power struggles and feuds.

Bleak, violent and chaotic this one has been called The Japanese Godfather and is a MUST WATCH. Also called The Yakuza Papers.

4. The Yakuza (1975) Sydney Pollack

Written by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne, directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Mitchum. The Yakuza is a study of a culture clash, Eastern philosophy vs a modernised West and features an intelligent plot for an American actioner of the 70's.

A retired American detective is called to Japan to help an old friend resolve a business conflict with the yakuza and rescue the daughter they've taken hostage.

A fun inclusion, strangely this is the one I think of when I think of yakuza movies despite it being an American movie starring Robert Mitchum that I wasn't overly thrilled with when I first saw it.

5. Sonatine (1993) Takeshi Kitano

Takeshi Kitano almost single handedly revived the yakuza genre in the 1990's with a series of stylised minimalist movies, with Sonatine perhaps his best despite the beauty of Hana-bi.

A world-weary yakuza in Tokyo is assigned to take his clan to Okinawa to help settle a dispute between two factions. Over time, it becomes clear he's been set up, sent to Okinawa so that others can take over his lucrative territory. As his clan dwindles, he plans a revenge.

Sonatine draws the viewer in from the beginning, evokes the whole range of emotions, and whilst its characters are yakuza, it's by no means merely a yakuza film, it's so much more.

There you have it Custard and friends. 5 yakuza movies you should see instead of Autoreiji. Let me know what you think in the blahs.


  1. Great list,

    I have only seen Yojimbo (one of my all time favourites as I'm sure you could tell from my profile pic) and all the Battles Without Honour Or Humanity, which I liked quite a bit even though I had some reservations.

    In fact scratch that, I've also seen Sonatine, a film I didn't really like much at all. It's hard to explain why but I just didn't enjoy it, I've tried getting into some more of Takeshi Kitano's work but have always been put off. I suppose it's just not my cup of tea.

  2. thank you jack. i totally forgot your profile pic when writing this. oops.

    you've seen three of the 5 which is pretty good going. i only just found out there were 5 battles movies, do they decline in quality as they go?

    i know wha tyou mean about kitano. he's one of those film makers you either love or hate but then he was heavily influenced by melville and fukasaku and do i remember correctly you weren't too fussed with melville either? perhaps i just made that up.

  3. HAHAH Thank you Toby. You are a gentleman and of course a Scholar.

    I am not proud to say I have not seen any on this list. I will do my best to try and find them although I really do not know where to look!! Yojimba I really think I should hunt out the most and of course Yakuz Papers...hmmm I will have to keep a beady eye out in the second hand shops or online!!

    I really appreciate this. I want to watch more world cinema and I sometimes never know where to start. But this has really helped. Tanks Matey.

    Have a great weekend!!


  4. it's ok custard, not everyone can have seen everything. otherwise nobody would get anything done. you use lovefilm? they might have some. but then you are in brighton, there's a lot of hipsters about and a lot of secondhand dvd places so the chances of getting lucky are high. i wish you luck.

    if you like i have some links for two:
    yojimbo -
    sonatine -

  5. I always have issues using ice films on my macbook for some reason.

    I will have a look in love films back catalogue. Thanks again Toby!!

  6. I like Melville a lot, so you must have made that up ;)

    The other Battle films are good as well, in fact sole of them are even better than the first, if I remember correctly. Definitely worth checking out if you want to see the rest of the story.

    Anyway, you're right about Kitano, he's definitely love or hate.

  7. custard - i find i just have to use d/l since i got my mac rather than stream like i used to.

    jack - thanks for the heads up i may have to see if any are available.