• Street Mobster (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: August 7th, 2018.
    Director: Kinji Fukasaku
    Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Noboru Andô, Mayumi Nagisa, Noboru Mitani, Nobuo Yani
    Year: 1972
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    Street Mobster - Movie Review:

    An incredibly fast paced gangster film, Kinji Fukasaku’s 1972 picture Street Mobster is the story of Isamu Okita (Bunta Sagawara), an aging mobster stuck in jail for killing some rival Takigawa clan gangsters in a bathhouse a few years ago. Now, he’s served his time and once he’s released, he finds out that the old school gangsters are no longer in power. Things have changed a lot since he was put behind bars, and now a more vicious breed of Yakuza rules the streets.

    Soon after Okita is let out of the big house, he meets up with Kizaki, a young wannabe gangster who talks Isamu into reforming his old gang and taking back control of the territory. Okita’s gang impresses yet another group of Yakuza and the two groups align and successfully crush the Takigawa clan. However, when a rival gang leader named Mr. Owada from a different territory arrives on the scene to further expand the new alliance, things fall apart. It’s then that Okita and crew are kicked out for disrespecting the powerfully Owada.

    Okita, now sick of taking orders from rival gangs and wanting control of the territory for himself, starts a gang war between all allied factions. Very soon, things begin to spiral out of control around him.

    Anyone familiar with Kinji Fukasaku’s many yakuza films knows that he had a knack for really being able to pull us into the world of the vicious anti-heroes that populated his pictures. It’s not hard at all to find yourself rooting for Okita, even while he’s beating the crap out of other gangsters and trying to further expand his criminal empire. He’s not a nice guy. And while, yes, Okita is the (anti) hero of the film, at the same time the camera doesn’t flinch away when it’s time for him to get down to some nasty business as we see him shooting his way through the Japanese underworld. We’re aware of his many and obvious flaws, these are established clearly and early on in the picture – but in many ways he’s very much the lesser of the many evils portrayed by the different characters that inhabit this world. The story deals in greys, rather than in absolute black and white character archetypes.

    In the middle of all of this is Bunta Sugawara. He’s a bull in a china shop here, an absolute beast bound by his own code of honor but definitely capable of delivering more violent retribution than any one man should ever have to dole out. He’s a bad ass of the coolest kind, and Sugawara makes all of this look natural and effortless. He never comes across as posing, but rather he suits the part perfectly, from his look to his line delivery to his body language.

    Rounded out nicely with an evocative score and some unusual but highly effective handheld camera work that gives the picture a documentary feel, Street Mobster is a gritty and serious crime film that focuses on the violent side of the criminal element.

    Street Mobster - Blu-ray Review:

    Street Mobster is presented on a 50GB Blu-ray disc courtesy of Arrow Video framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The picture quality here is good, quite solid actually, but not quite reference quality. The image is clean showing very little print damage. Colors do look just a little faded at times and black levels can occasionally (though not always) look closer to dark grey than pure black. Contrast is uneven, sometimes things look a little too hot or too warm, other times they look spot on. Detail is generally pretty solid, if never quite as good as the best Blu-ray transfers out there. Skin tones look natural enough and the image is free of any obvious digital tinkering like sharpening or noise reduction.

    The Japanese LPCM Mono soundtrack is clean, clear and free of any hiss or although there is some minor sibilance in the higher end from time to time. Optional English subtitles are included that are easy to read and free of any typographical errors. The score for the film comes through with enough power behind it that it accentuates the more intense scenes of the film, but it never buries the performers or their dialogue. The same comment applies to the foley and the sound effects. As far as older mono tracks go, this sounds decent enough.

    The main extra on the disc is an audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes that offers up plenty of insight into the film and its history. He talks about how this picture started a trend of ‘true account’ yakuza pictures in Japan, where Fukasaku took a lot of his inspiration for when it came to making these pictures, the morality of the gangsters portrayed in the film and how this contrasts to other gangster films made before and after as well as how and why this picture became as popular as it was when it struck a nerve with audiences. He talks about some of the locations used in the film, Bunta Sugawara’s powerhouse of a performance, how the critics reacted to the film when it hit theatres, and how what we see in this film clearly had an influence on the Battles Without Honor And Humanity films that came in its wake. Mes’ delivery style here is very laid back and he’s a little hard to hear when the audio in the movie gets louder but there’s a lot of good information in here and he clearly knows his stuff.

    Aside from that, the disc also includes the film’s original theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection. Although a test disc only was sent for review, finished product is said to include reversible sleeve art and an insert booklet.

    Street Mobster - The Final Word:

    Street Mobster is an excellent film, one of the best yakuza pictures of the early seventies and a picture that would clearly inspire a lot of what would come just a few short years later in the genre. Bunta Sugawara is fantastic in the lead and Fukasaku keeps things moving at a great pace. Arrow’s disc isn’t stacked with extras but the commentary has value and the presentation is solid. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Street Mobster Blu-ray screen caps!