Many office workers dream of excitement beyond the day-to-day, suit-and-tie mundanity of modern corporate life. But few have an extra-curricular past-time like Tetsuya Asakura (Yusaku Matsuda). When he’s not meekly working as an accountant at the Towa Oil Company, he operates as a master thief, ruthless killer and all-round mean bastard. In his most daring crime yet, Asakura steals 100 million Yen from his own company, but soon discovers that each note is marked and unusable. So he hatches a plan to exchange the cash for heroin, and finds himself caught up in a web of blackmail and corporate intrigue.
Resurrection of Golden Wolf is based on a novel by hard-boiled crime writer Haruhiko Ooyabu, and proves an overlong, misogynistic but occasionally exciting slice of 1970s Japanese noir. Director Toru Murakawa doesn’t mess around in establishing Asakura’s bad guy credentials – within the first five minutes he has shot dead a security guard carrying his company’s money, and throughout the course of the film he traffics drugs, guns down any number of rival criminals, gets his lover hooked on heroin, extracts information via sexual assault, and generally acts despicably. But given that he’s also pretty darned cool and none of the other characters are remotely likeable either, he’s as near as we get to a hero.
What starts as fairly straightforward – Asakura must get rid of the stolen money as quickly as possible – soon becomes impossibly complicated as his bosses become the target of a blackmail plot executed by business rival Sakurai (the great Sonny Chiba) and Asakura decides to play the two sides off against each other. You might be able to keep track of all the characters and skulduggery, but I gave up pretty quickly. I really couldn’t care who was trying to rip off who, and since Asakura is met with virtually no resistance as he acquires more and more wealth from his various schemes, there’s not much excitement in watching him outwit his foes.
There are some good sequences though, and had the film been shorn by half an hour (it’s an exhausting 130 minutes) it might have been a lot more watchable. Murakawa directs in a funky, freewheeling style and some of the action scenes – car chases, shoot-outs – are thrilling enough. The idea of a mild-mannered businessman operating as a ruthless killer in his spare time is a good one, but not enough is made of it – in fact once this premise has been established, we barely see him in the office at all. And even though there’s a nice irony that it is Asakura’s mistress who manages to do what all the gun-toting gangsters could not, the climax is completely flat; the film just peters out. Compared to the gritty, gripping thrillers that Kinji Fukasaku directed during the seventies – Graveyard of Honour, Yakuza Graveyard – Resurrection of Golden Wolf doesn’t really deliver where it counts.
Japanese director throughout the eighties and nineties, mostly of tough crime thrillers. Films include The Most Dangerous Game, Resurrection of Golden Wolf, The Shootout and the US-set New York Cop and Distant Justice.