Top 3. One of Gosha's masterpieces, and he had a few for sure. Nakadai is at his best. Even bit characters are played by stars and knock any contemporary oscar off the shelf. The music is AMAZING and seriously you'll have it in your mind for a long time! Shamisen reverberations, umbrella assassinations. Trust me, this one is the underworld twin to Gosha's other winner 'Hitokiri' (Tenchu).
There are some fantastic moments here - the time period is welcome, and, seriously, there's a dirty graveyard fight with female assassin twins. Despite Gosha's rampaging flourishes, though, it treads no new narrative ground. The acting (by all major Japanese character actors in existence) is uniformly excellent.
The Wolves is one of Hideo Gosha's most beautifully directed Yakuza films. It has plenty of interesting characters and two visually stunning scenes of violence. I have written a film article on the film at my Japanese Samurai and Yakuza blog: onimasa.blogspot.co.uk