The second Suzuki film I saw. At this point I started to think that his auteurish flourishes were fun but ultimately kind of distracting. Sometimes incoherence is a stand against a bourgeois fascination with linearity, logic and order, but sometimes, maybe - just maybe - it is a sign of incompetence. I am a fan of Jo Shishido and this is cool looking, but there are better existential yakuza dramas (Cf. Pale Flower)
Branded to Kill takes the ultra-cool final shootout of Tokyo Drifter, and makes the similar action more prevalent, and the pace more energetic. It also now has a few more unique character details (Shishido's sexual arousal when smelling boiling rice, his relationships with women, the humorous standoff scenes with #1.) Motivations are lost at times in its set-piece squall, but its verve and style are done grandly.
Totally crazy movie: the score, the use of light, the type of narration and the editing all follow - without a mistake - a really weird story where death, fascination for it and yet the wish for survival mix together. A good example of how noir can be - and has been many times - a perfect mean for allegory.
Oozes cool and boldly asserts a strong other-worldly aesthetic, both quintessentially 60s but also ahead of its time. Any incoherence is compensated for by some nifty set pieces and a final third that enters existential territory as the rivals play cat-and-mouse within their strict warrior code - as if Pinter's The Dumb Waiter had been transplanted to Tokyo and given a big shot of adrenalin and an X-rating.
Jarmusch and Tarantino avidly paid homage to Suzuki and his satire of yakuza fiction with it's B-movie kitsch, problematic representations of women, incomprehensible plots and an overwhelming sense of anarchy. On one level, it seems like a Russ Meyer film, yet on another, akin to Dr. Strangelove. What a maverick.
Kitsch, kitsch, kitsch! And such 60s style! Also, some strange Japanese fetishes abound. However, great cinematography and excellent harpsichord jazz soundtrack. I could imagine Murakami, the novelist, being inspired by this calibre of flick. I'd like to see more!
Iconic and influential for many future directors who will borrow its coolness and wildness however as a wholesome piece on its own it's certainly an acquired taste. Suzuki's lack of focus, that cartoonist feel, the improvisation that often surfaces in many sequences, the championing of an effective slick style over its rudimentary noir skeleton, all these are issues that should not compare to greatness.