Another of veteran director Kinji Fukasaku's gritty 70s gangster dramas, this is still at times impressively hard-hitting, but lacks the dramatic scope of his best films — Graveyard Of Honour, The Yakuza Papers and Yakuza Graveyard.
Bunta Sugawara, Japan's craggy-faced answer to Clint Eastwood, plays Okita, a hard-nut street hustler who finds himself in chokey after he stabs a rival to death in a bath-house. Upon his release he finds all the old gangs have disappeared, so sets about trying to form his own mob, much to the chagrin of Tokyos' new Yakuza bosses.
As ever, Fukasaku's depiction of sex, drugs and gang violence is hard-hitting stuff, particularly as the director takes a detached view of his protagonists and their shocking attitudes towards crime, and in particular women (Okita ends up living with a prostitute whose gang-rape he led several years earlier). But although none of the characters are remotely likable, Sugawara (and his hilarious fixed sneer) remains a charismatic leading man, and there's a certain Wild Bunch-esque poignancy to Okita's refusal to cow-tow to the Yakuza hierarchy, even though it spells certain doom for him and his gang.
What it lacks however is a strong narrative drive — the film is really just a series of violent encounters — and the insight of Fukasaku's other pictures is missing. Unlike, say, Graveyard Of Honour, we learn nothing about Japanese society at this time and the portrayal of the Yakuza world, while no doubt accurate, is nothing we haven't seen in a dozen other movies. (There is an entertainingly loopy jazz score though!)
Aka: Gendai Yakuza: Hito-kiri Yota, Modern Yakuza — Outlaw Killer