Tuesday, May 17, 2011

In short: Yakuza Deka (1970)

aka Gangster Cop

After leaving the police force with a very loud public noise, now ex-cop Hayata (Sonny Chiba!) hires on with a local yakuza group. While they certainly don't trust him, the yakuza still don't expect him to be the undercover cop out to destroy the largest provider of dirty money and drugs in Japan that he actually is. Of course, it is necessary for Hayata to prove his loyalty to the new cause, so his first real job as a yakuza is to assassinate the head of a conflicting group. Hayata only succeeds in his second attempt, and must escape assassination by mysterious forces among his yakuza friends himself afterwards, but is now still another step closer to his actual goal.

All the while, Hayata has found the sort of friendship where men give each other roses to shoot them out of the other's mouth while driving dune buggies with one of the yakuza, and charmed the drug-addicted lover of his new boss with his manliness. But will that be enough to save the cop when his employers find out what he truly wants?

In the big picture of 70s Toei productions starring the heroic Sonny Chiba, Yukio Noda's Yakuza Deka is nothing special. The film is as vaguely plotted as any film about an undercover cop I've ever seen, with a leisurely pace that sabotages any possible impression of tension, and with an added sprinkle of pretty unfunny comedy. For a film made by the director of Zero Woman: Red Handcuffs, this is also a peculiarly un-sleazy film, with nary a moment of sex, nudity or eroticism, unless having Sonny strutting his stuff in brilliantly ugly clothing counts as erotic, which it might very well do. There's a total lack of emotional urgency on display that even hits the scenes of characters dying in Chiba's arms; what should be dramatic (or at least trite and melodramatic) becomes the movie version of a slightly disinterested shrug.

Fortunately, this is still a Toei film from the 70s, so there are enough scenes in Yakuza Deka to make it worth watching. The copious action sequences start out kinda awesome (because they have Chiba in them, and therefore can't help but contain awesomeness), but soon enough turn ridiculously awesome - though Noda's bland direction does its best to sabotage that feeling - through their willingness to be as goofy as anyone could wish for. I didn't know you can do that with a helicopter! (Well, turns out you can't outside of a Chiba movie). Then there's the usual solid Toei funk soundtrack and some fashion choices so early 70s they just might make eyes bleed.

This collection of barely connected scenes never does add up the merry insanity of the Streetfighter movies, or a good, or even just a coherent film, but it sure is enough to make watching Yakuza Deka a perfectly entertaining time.


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