Friday, May 23, 2008

Movie Review: The Yakuza

Today's review is for a terrific film from the mid 70's, The Yakuza. Written by Paul Schrader (writer of 2 brutal american classics, Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, and Writer /Director of the underappreciated The Affliction, a film from the late 90's starring Nick Nolte and James Coburn).

The film was directed by Sydney Pollack and stars Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, and Brian Keith. Set in Japan the film explores themes of honor, duty, and respect that transcends the normal enemy/friend dichotomy. All of the characters feel real and the relationships between them are complex, just as real life often is. The sleepy eyed but grittily resolved Bob Mitchum Ken Takakura does a great job portraying Mitchum's nemesis/ally, a quiet and proud man who lives by a strong personal code of honor.

The set up is deceptively simple. Brian Keith's charater (Tanner) asks old friend Mitchum (Harry Kilmer) to help locate Tanner's kidnapped daughter, and requests that Mitchum bring in nemesis/ally Takakura to help. From that starting point we see a complicated plot unfold and without the use of any flashbacks we are slowly filled in on the relationships between the many characters involved, with some surprising (and illuminating) twists.

Highly, highly recommended, and yet another example of the quality filmmaking of the 70's in the pre blockbuster era.


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