Sunday, July 09, 2017

Tonight's Movie: The Yakuza (1975) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Robert Mitchum stars in the crime film THE YAKUZA (1975), released earlier this year on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

THE YAKUZA, directed by Sidney Pollack, was released in Japan in December 1974. A U.S. release followed in March of 1975.

Mitchum plays Harry Kilmer, a private detective in L.A. who is asked by an old war buddy, George Tanner (Brian Keith), to rescue his daughter. Members of the Yakuza, a Japanese crime syndicate, are holding the girl hostage in Tokyo in retaliation for Tanner not delivering a shipment of guns for which he was paid.

Harry had served in Japan during the Occupation, and George knows that a member of the Yakuza, Tanaka Ken (Ken Takakura), owes Harry a debt of honor and might be able to help. Harry agrees to return to Japan for the first time in many years, where he is reunited with his old love Eiko (Kishi Keiko) and her daughter Hanako (Christina Kobuko).

Past and present mysteries about the people in Harry's life are unraveled as Harry and Ken work to rescue George's daughter and then deal with the violent fallout.

THE YAKUZA is an absorbing movie which provides interesting insights into Japanese culture alongside several unexpected plot twists. As one would expect, Mitchum is terrific as the grizzled detective who still bears the pain of Eiko's refusal to marry him decades earlier. Despite that, he valiantly soldiers on, proving to have as much a sense of honor as the Japanese.

Takakura is also excellent as a man who had left behind the world of the Yakuza years ago, but who puts his life on the line due to his sense of honor and debt to Harry. James Shigeta plays his older brother, a Yakuza "wise man" whose explanations to Harry also help to key in the audience on some of the conflicts and traditions depicted in the film.

Herb Edelman is amusing as another friend of Harry and George, who works as a teacher in Japan. His home is filled with massive amounts of weaponry, but when things get tough you'll find him clutching one of his cats! Richard Jordan plays the son of yet another friend who accompanies Harry to Japan.

The movie is fairly dark, with a high body count, earning its R rating due to violence. I shut my eyes a couple times -- the bloody scenes are telegraphed well in advance -- but other than a couple squeamish moments, I found it a worthwhile, memorable film.

THE YAKUZA was filmed by Kozo Okazaki. The U.S. release, which is on the Warner Archive Blu-ray, runs 112 minutes. The Japanese version is 123 minutes.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray is an excellent widescreen print. The director commentary and a featurette which were part of the original DVD release of a few years ago are included on the Blu-ray disc. The Archive has also reissued this film on DVD.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Kristina said...

I like this one a lot, it's mature, authentic and melancholy, and the perfect weary character for an older Mitchum. Now you should check out The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

2:34 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for the tip, Kristina!! Putting that one on my list now...

Best wishes,

9:41 AM  

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