its prime, the yakuza life may have had its benefits, but they did not include
a pension, 401K, or long-term disability. As a result, those who manage to live
into their golden years become an embarrassing burden to their families. Out of
boredom and contempt for the new brand of organized crime, a notorious retired
yakuza decides to get the old gang back together in Takeshi Kitano’s Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen (trailer here), which screens
today during the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal.
still has his massive yakuza tattoos and he is not shy about showing them off,
much to his salaryman son’s chagrin. One day, Ryuzo nearly falls for a
confidence scam, but the arrival of his old crony Masa limits the damage.
Evidently, this is one of the many predatory operations run by Keihin
Industries, the ostensibly legit financial outfit that took over territory once
run by Ryuzo’s now defunct clan.
his surviving associates (in some cases just barely), Ryuzo forms a new
inter-clan “league” to teach the Keihin creeps how crime should be done. They
even have the wink-and-a-nod blessing of crusty Det. Murakami, who was just a
kid in their day, but is one of the few remaining coppers who still remember
the old yakuza. Of course, Ryuzo and his gang (including Mokichi the dreaded
“Toilet Assassin”) are over-matched and out of shape, but they do not have much
Henchmen is about as cute
as Kitano gets. There is usually a pronounced element of black humor in his
gangster films, particularly the Outrage duology,
but now he brings the comedy front-and-center. Of course, when the gags involve
finger chopping and commode killings, it helps to have an appreciation for the
Ryuchi, the quietly simmering Tatsuya Fuji looks like he could explode at any
time. The former Stray Cat Rock star
still has plenty of fierce in him, making him a perfectly suited to anchor the
film. However, it is amazing how much pop the film gets from Kitano’s brief
appearances as Murakami. Happily, the power of his deceptively placid presence
remains undiminished. It just would be nicer to have more of it in Henchmen.
There is a tendency in the film towards
goofiness, but the game supporting cast (starting with Masaomi Kondo as the
loyal but slightly psychotic Masa) strives more for a nostalgic Tough Guys tone than a shticky Grumpy Old Men kind of thing. It mostly
works. Overall, Henchmen is an
enjoyable exercise in senior empowerment and old school payback, while also
suggesting it is high time someone mounted a comprehensive Kitano career retrospective.
It is a lot of fun, but not as much fun as another resurrection of Kitano’s
Otomo for an Outrage 3 would be.
Recommended for yakuza fans, Ryuzo and
His Seven Henchmen screens tonight (7/27), as part of this year’s Fantasia.
Labels: Fantasia '15, Japanese Cinema, Takeshi Kitano, Yakuza films