Known primarily in the West for directing such features as Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and the controversial Battle Royale (2000), maverick Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku established himself early on with a series of Toei Studio yakuza movies before gaining international recognition after taking over for Akira Kurosawa when the legendary director abandoned Tora! Tora! Tora!. Fukasaku was born in Mito, Japan, in 1930, and made his film debut with 1961’s High Noon for Gangsters.Taking a cue from Italian neorealism, Fukasaku continued to craft a unique style that would flourish throughout the 1960s. Later helming the visually explosive Black Lizard, it soon became apparent that Fukasaku was a director whose talents were limited by the suffocating restraints of the Japanese studio system. Exploring the dark underworld of crime and continually blurring the line between good and evil in his “Battle series,” (which began with 1973’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity) the director’s brutal… read more
The opening and ending sequences are pretty fantastic (as our a number of scenes in between, the prison suicide attempt especially), but the plot *does* become so convoluted as to be unintelligible. This unintelligibility slowly saps the film of its dramatic weight, almost to the point of indifference (that is, with double and triple crosses happening by the second, it is at some point difficult to care
Even if it is IMPOSSIBLE to follow the interrelated gang politics, Fukasaku knows how to immerse with near-ridiculous emotional situations. Don't worry, he's got you. Filmmaking from a master of craft.