A slow-burning and melancholy Bushidō-noir that builds to some spectacular outbursts of violence (Schrader's contributions, I imagine). Hindered by some hammy exposition, but it's ultimately effective and memorable. Ken Takakura is a badass.
35mm. A great political film with a psychology without fanfare and a concise narrative of a plasticity wisely elaborated for the dimension of panoramic screen. More than a choreographic action film - reduced to a splendidly staged central scene, with a denial of speed that is the opposite of King Hu or Chang Cheh - it's a "out of the past" love story and a ethical lesson on friendship.
Unlike Scorsese, Pollack doesn't get Schrader's violent existentialism & instead attempts to romanticise the relationship between characters; to give them a relatable sympathetic edge. The result is a stylish, often quite beautiful action movie in the tradition of Point Blank; however it's clear from the progression of the narrative that this, like Taxi Driver, would've played better as a nihilistic revenge fantasy.
After The Way We Were in 1973, The Yakuza was the second masterpiece in a row directed by Sydney Pollack, a director who seems already forgotten now, just a few years after his death. A DVD I'm proud to have in my library.
Overlooked '70s gem that blends samurai and noir. Incredible creds involved: Schrader, Towne, Pollack, Mitchum, and in one of the baddest badass roles ever, Ken Takakura. Builds to an insane, violent finale with hanzo swords and sawed-off shotguns. Cool factor through the roof.
Evocative scenes set in Kyoto and Tokyo imbued with a melancholy mood and suspense. Robert Mitchum is reflective and rueful. This movie is meditative--not a mindless display of violence like Tarantino, Woo, or other action pictures. Scorsese expressed interest in the screenplay (created by Paul Schrader, with rewrites by Robert Towne.) He would have been a
much better choice as director than Pollack.