1 September 2007 | winner55
a superior film
This appears to have been intended as a pre-quel to the original Tokyo Mafia series; but it has its own axes to grind, and can be (and perhaps ought to be) viewed separately. The first two films (which present two halves of the same story) are presented in a breathless B-movie style intended to push the envelop on some values of the well-established Yakusa genre just for to be hip and shocking at the same time.
The present film is after something totally different. There are plenty of shock-value bits thrown in, but with a sense of banality in their execution, rather like one finds in the films of Beat Takeshi or Takeshi Miiki - it is not simply that the people are doing very bad things, but there isn't any good for them to do, the world has grown old and corrupt. Thus the final sequence raises the whole question of whether there is any "way of the yakuza" at all, a kind of question that can't be raised in a typical genre B-movie.
Although the dialog is crisp and to the point (the original series was a bit talky), and the actors are all very good for their roles, raising the thematic question is achieved primarily through direction, camera-work, editing. For me, that makes this a superior film - a good story can't make a good film unless there is good film-making to define it; and good film-making can sometimes salvage a bad story, but bad film-making can utterly ruin a good story.
for instance, one thematic element here has to do with the electric-powered wheel-chair an aging gang-boss uses; its presentation in the film underscores the lowered expectations of the boss himself, and the fact that his gang has somehow stagnated in a world still moving on.
There's a good story here, but is it strong enough to bear the weight of such themes and their cinematic presentation? I'm not yet sure; but I'm giving the film a nine, because it's certainly worth viewing again to try to find that out.