Friday, October 10, 2008

REVIEW: Yakuza Demon - Takashi Miike (2003)

Reviewed by Bob Turnbull

Life-long yakuza Seiji is challenged when he states that he is a part of the Muto Family. "Muto Family my ass. There are just the three of you" says one of the bosses. In response, Seiji calmly states "Yakuza isn't about how many men you've got". Coming only a year after "Deady Outlaw: Rekka", Takashi Miike's 2003 film continues to examine the rules and laws of being a yakuza and all the good and bad things that come with sticking to that code.

Though it shares many similarities to DOR, "Yakuza Demon" is a more streamlined affair and much more fatalistic in its approach to its characters. This gives the film a stronger sense of tension and a grittier feel - intensified by the straightforward nature of the camera work. Miike keeps things pretty basic throughout, though he does jump the time line of the story back and forth occasionally and signifies this with short sequences of violence. Riki Takeuchi plays a very similar lone dog character to his role in DOR, but this time reigns in his over the top bouts of crazy-eyed violent outbursts. This adds a bit more realism to the progression of the character as well as lending more shock to the violence when it does happen.

The story revolves around Seiji's commitment to his family - his yakuza family. When the Date family call in a debt, Seiji's boss cannot repay it and is told he must instead kill the top man of another rival family. To prevent his boss from having to do this (knowing that if he is caught it will be life in prison), Seiji squeals on his boss about an illegal gun in order to get him off the streets with a much shorter prison sentence. During this time, Seiji and his lone partner (who is also an occasional narrator in the story) begin to take care of some business - first by stealing money from the Tendo Group to repay the boss' debt. Tendo and Date have just started their own war and Seiji ups the ante by playing the sides against each other. Whatever he does to one family will automatically get blamed on the other family - especially when he goes after the head of Tendo and his 10 bodyguards.

None of this behaviour is ever romanticized by Miike, though there is an air of absolute "cool" about the stoic Seiji. But there's a price since "there's no cure for a creature like the yakuza".

Read more from Bob Turnbull at his blog.

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