• Yakuza Demon



    Released by: Pathfinder Films
    Released on: 12/28/2004.
    Director: Takashi Miike
    Cast: Riki Takeuchi, Mickey Curtis, Tetsuro Tanba, Kenichi Endo
    Year: 2003

    The Movie:

    Yakuza Demon (a re-titling of the film originally known as Kikoku) once again teams up one of the world’s most prolific director, Takashi Miike, with the permanently scowling Riki Takeuchi. Whereas many of their earlier collaborations are known (infamous, you could say) for their over the top violence and insanity, Yakuza Demon is a quieter, more grounded film than those that have come before it from these two.

    The film follows the story of Yakuza gang who find themselves in trouble when it turns out that their boss, Mr. Muto (the omnipresent Tetsuro Tanba), is on the losing end of an argument involving a decent amount of cash with some Yakuza bosses from rival gangs in the area. It seems the other gangs expected Muto to pony up his share of the expenses for a few jobs they’d been planning and he’s not really in the position to make that happen right now, and instead tells them that he’ll take care of his share by working it off with his men instead. The other gangs don’t like this idea so much, so they declare war on him and his family, but his life is saved when he’s picked up on some criminal charges and shipped off to prison for two years.

    While he’s in the big house, his two second in command gang members, Seiji (Riki Takeuchi) and Yoshifumi, decide to take care of business in his absence and they take the war to the streets and to the homes of the opposing Yakuza gangs who earlier had their sites set on their boss. The fatal flaw in their plan lays in the fact that they are extremely out numbered in terms of manpower and firepower – Seiji is a man possessed though and he’s not going to let a little thing like that get in his way.

    Those looking for a big payout in the end the way that the Dead Or Alive films concluded should look elsewhere. This is a very down to Earth, realistic and dare I say it ‘quiet’ crime film. Yes, the movie does afford Takeuchi to go over the top a few times, spraying bullets at his opponents from the smoking barrel of his Uzi, but most of the carnage occurs out of the camera’s view – this isn’t a gore fest or a crazy action film the way many expect Miike’s movies to be.

    Yakuza Demon moves along at a good pace though – except for a ten to fifteen minute stretch in the middle it never feels overly long or drawn out as sometimes the director’s films have a tendency to do. The prevalent Miike themes of honor and loyalty among the Yakuza is once again the central focus of this film as it is in many of his other movies and the story and dialogue do a good job of keeping it interesting. While there is a strange curveball thrown at us (not strange in that it is an unusual thing to happen but strange in that the film in no way alludes to it beforehand) that could have been fleshed out a lot better (I’m not spoiling it by saying it’s the love story aspect) the movie is a solid crime story with some good performances from it’s leads.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    For a straight to video release, Yakuza Demon looks quite nice. It is obviously low budget (one could probably assume that one of the reasons that a lot of the killing in the film takes place off camera was for financial reasons), but it is shot well and with decent lighting. The end result is a nice looking film and Pathfinder gives it a solid anamorphic widescreen presentation on this release – it’s debut for the North American home video market. Colors are, as is the norm with Japanese film, slightly muted but there’s next to no print damage and while some minor edge enhancement does show up in a couple of spots, there aren’t any compression problems. All in all, the movie looks very good on DVD.

    The Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix comes with typo free English subtitles that are easy to read and also removable. Dialogue is clean and clear, there aren’t any issues with background hiss, and the levels are well balanced. While there could have been a bit more punch from the lower end of the mix, that’s a minor complain about an otherwise perfectly fine presentation.

    Extras are limited to a trailer for the feature, some production notes from Miike biographer Thomas Mes, and some brief biographies for the cast and crew members involved in making the film.

    The Final Word:

    Yakuza Demon won’t do it for you if you’re looking for something as out there as some of his other Yakuza films like Fudoh or Gozu but if you’re in the mood for a slightly more traditional gangster tale from the land of the rising sun, it might just fit the bill. Pathfinder’s DVD is a little short in the extras department but it looks and sounds quite good.