Monday, October 17, 2016

The Yakuza (1974)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Writers: Paul Schrader, Robert Towne, Leonard Schrader

Composer: Dave Grusin

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, Herb Edelman, Richard Jordan, Keiko Kishi, Eiji Okada, James Shigeta, Kyosuke Machida, Christina Kokubo, Eiji Go

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A man never forgets. A man pays his debts.

Plot: Harry Kilmer returns to Japan after several years in order to rescue his friend George's kidnapped daughter - and ends up on the wrong side of the Yakuza, the notorious Japanese mafia.

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

When you think of Americans getting involved with anything in any foreign country, you can bet that it's the American that comes out on top and the foreigners couldn't have done it without them.  Well, this picture is an exception.  Not only is the American (Harry Kilmer nicely played by Mitchum) a contributor to the problem (but it's not his fault as he was duped by another American that really fucks things up).  Yeah, he helps but he does so out of a sense of honor and obligation.  The ending is really great.  For an American production, they handled the Japanese culture with respect and dignity.  I was really surprised at how much detail was paid to it.  I read that the original script was more about the action and revenge but that was toned down a lot in the rewrite from Robert Towne.  I don't know at what point the careful attention was paid to everything Japanese but it works very, very well.  Again, what Kilmer does in the final minutes is harsh and brilliant.  Kilmer might as well be Japanese.  There's a fair amount of action and it's good.  The acting is very good as well.  I was pleasantly surprised by the seriousness of it all.  Dave Grusin's score works well and I really dig his opening credits track.  It's got a nice groove to it.  The Warner Bros. DVD (not the Archive Collection which is how it's sold now...I'm assuming that version doesn't have extras as is usual with that line) has a great looking anamorphic widescreen print with extras in a commentary track from Pollack and a vintage twenty minute behind the scenes featurette (fullscreen).  It's a great look at the film's production and on dealing with the Japanese culture and Yakuza films.

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