BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR OR HUMANITY DEADLY FIGHT IN HIROSHIMA PROXY WAR POLICE TACTICS FINAL (BATTLE) EPISODE
REVIEWED BY-STEVE GENIER DIRECTED BY-KINJI FUKASAKU CAST-BUNTA SUGAWARA, HIROKI MATSUKATA, KUNIE TANAKA, EIKO NAKAMURA, TSUNEHIKO, GORO IBUKI, HARUNI SONE, NOBUO KANEKO, TOSHIE KIMURA, TAMIO KAWACHI, ASAO UCHIDA and SONNY CHIBA. SOURCE-HOME VISION ENTERTAINMENT LIMITED 6 DISC REGION 1 NTSC BOX-SET. RUNTIME-500 MINUTES + EXTRAS
I have to admit that before finally viewing this series of Yakuza films, I had only seen a handful. So, I was certainly no expert in this area, nor Iím I now, but at least after viewing the BATTLE WITHOUT HONOR OR HUMANITY films, I have a hugely better handle on what to look for in the future. Though finding a Yakuza film maybe easier now, the same would not be in the case of finding one that is true to the historical ties that Kinji Fukasaku laid down in the YAKUZA PAPERS series of films. See as explained in great detail through the box-setís extras, director Kinji Fukasaku was not just in the business to make films, but also to give them a meaning that rang true not only to himself but to the audiences as well. This was certainly no exception with his direction in THE YAKUZA PAPERS.
He himself growing up just after World War 2 and seeing the state in which Japan was in after Hiroshima, the Black Marketís insurgence soon after. This was Fukasakuís intension, to not only give the people a source of entertainment but also giving them a slice of his own rage, his own experiences. He also redefined the way not only the way the Yakuza films were made, but the way films were made in Japan period. His style, his method and certainly his in your face reality were the forefront or trademark that made his films stand out. Unlike many of his counterparts of the day, his keen sense as to how the camera should move, how the framing should be laid and how the actors should present themselves were all something that changed film making during this period.
His high energy camera work is just one area in which he was able to give you the viewer a sense of being apart of the action rather then being on the outside looking in. As mentioned earlier as well, his giving meaning to his films also ran down to every lasting details. From giving the smaller characters key parts, or their 15 minutes of fame and then having them bow out. It was those characters that really gave these films itís certain true to nature edge or reality. Though never forgetting that main roles in the process. This method can be seen in pretty much all of his films or at least the oneís that I have experienced right up until BATTLE ROYALE. Though one can often get lost in a sea of many character roles, just sit back and go with the flow of the story as Fukasaku manages to sort all out without leaving you hanging.
With the beginning of the series of films, BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY begins with post-war Hiroshima and itís emerging Black Markets and slums which dominated much of Japan during the American occupation. From these ashes came the resurgence of the Yakuza. In breaking it down further, we are introduced to the seriesí main character of Shozo Hirono (Bunta Suawara) who is brought with his friends under the wing of boss Yamamori. That is not his first encounter though with the Yakuza. While serving time in prison he becomes blood brothers with a feuding gangís member. This becomes Hironoís explosive beginning into a world in which he will ultimately adopt to or be killed.
THE YAKUZA PAPERS chronicles the memoirs are of an actual gang boss who was in the middle of severing time in prison. Those memoirs span over almost a quarter of a decade in which he witnessed literary hundreds of members come and go. Advance up the ladder or killed in the process of doing so. All of which is depicted with great precession by director Kinji Fukasaku. It shows the quick changes that the world of the Yakuza had to change with and adopt. From becoming an unorganized set of gangs to a system of powerhouses asserting themselves for the big prize, ultimate dominance in a dog eat dog world. Of course this was always met with resistance as shown by the third installment PROXY WARS and later came to a major wall in the four installment POLICE TACTICS. Where the police finally had caught up to the level of the Yakuza, as they got themselves organized and went after individual members of the Yakuza for various reasons. From assault, gambling and killing, the police had finally brought the once rolling wheels of the Yakuza to a grinding halt.
Of course like many time before, the Yakuza changed with the times and morphed once again into a business function, but most still could see right through that. Even the former Yakuza could not deal with the fact that the young recruits were becoming soft. Once again the Yakuza is born from the ashes. Yet, with the new look and new attitude, the old Yakuza members learned the hard way that they had to retire in order to let this wheel turn smoothly once again. As in the final installment THE FINAL (BATTLE) EPISODE displays the maturing of Hirono and his better understanding of what he must do. The changing of the guard and the consist recycling of violence and blood led him into believing that this vicious cycle will continue even after him.
After watching this series of films, I myself also matured in my way of knowledge of these films. Yet, there are still many other examples I have yet to experience. THE YAKUZA PAPERS is certainly the right starting point where Iím concerned. What attracted me to this set at first was the fact that I had started diving into the Yakuza genre for a serious run for once. I had only watched a handful of films and had reach a period in my life where I had felt that this was the perfect time to finally see what this world was all about. That teamed up with my new fascination with actor Bunta Sugawara, who I had just got re-introduced to with yet another Kinji Fukasaka film STREET MOBSTER. After really enjoying both Sugawara ability to convey such a strong screen presence and Fukasakaís incredible direction, I wanted to explore more of these options. So, of course I searched for more and came up with the fact that the same people who released STREET MOBSTER were also releasing a major box-set for a series of films called THE YAKUZA PAPERS. I had already seen the first installment of BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR OR HUMANITY through itís release in the UK market in a Fukasaka box-set. So, I knew that this was the most logical way of going. Of course that move turned out to be the most fruitful indeed.
The HVE limited box-set is a set that rivals the best of the best for sure. It is too bad that there is still only a select following for such an incredible series of films,here in North America. A series in my mind makes THE GODFATHER series look like something out of Disney. Funny thing is, I had read somewhere in someoneís review of the first film BATTLES, that it owes a lot to THE GODFATHER. Believe me, that is the furthest thing from the truth for sure. Completely two very different ways of looking at of course a similar subject of crime, but that is all. Anyhow, back with the box-set itself, all of the films are re-mastered from an already digital source. They all look and sound very impressive indeed. Visually they are filmed in both black and white and colour in the Toeiscope ratio of 2.35:1. Audio wise they are all presented in Japanese digital mono 2.0 with removable English subtitles.
This set comes with a bonus sixth disc in which houses tons of great extras. All of which are interviews and discussions on the films or Fukasaka himself. No stone is left unturned here either, as they explores many different focus points to Fukasakaís work. How he changed certain ways of filming, to the direct influences he had and what dorve him into filming THE YAKUZA PAPERS set of films. Interviews include Fukasaka himself to his son Kenta, director William Friedkin, Fukasaka biographer Sadao Yamane, Toei producer Masato Sato and finishing off with subtitler Linda Hoaglund who shares her experience working with Fukasaka. That of course is not all, if you move the DVD controller arrow to the left of the screen you will also notice that there is an Easter egg which deals with the Yakuza art of cutting of the pinky finger. All of which is explained by an ex-Yakuza member. All of this along with two great informative booklets are incase in a special metal cover.
THE YAKUZA PAPERS
BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR OR HUMANITY- 4.5 BITCH SLAPS
DEADLY FIGHT IN HIROSHIMA- 4 BITCH SLAPS
PROXY WAR- 4 BITCH SLAPS
POLICE TACTICS - 4 BITCH SLAPS
FINAL (BATTLE) EPISODE - 4.5 BITCH SLAPS
PICTURE-4.5 BITCH SLAPS AUDIO-4 BITCH SLAPS EXTRAS- 5 BITCH SLAPS OVERALL- 5 BITCH SLAPS
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