A young yakuza hitman named Goro does a job and needs to hideout away from Tokyo for a while. He hangs out with loose women and hard men and always manages to stay one step ahead of the law...
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The film stars Tetsuya Watari who plays Goro, a gangster who was sent to prison for three years for stabbing a hitman (Machida Kyosuke) who belonged to the rival gang called the Aokis. On ... See full summary »
Tokyo, 1934. The boss of the clan that controls gambling agonizes and some of his followers propose to Nakai to take his place, but he refuses the offer and suggests they choose Matsuda, who is in prison.
Tora-San, an itinerant peddler who is thrown out of his father's house twenty years before but reconnects with his aunt, uncle and sister Sakura. Tora wreaks some havoc in their lives, like getting drunk and silly at a marriage meeting.
Kuroda (Jô Shishido) is a mob hitman who turns on his employers after being forced to execute his lover. Joining forces with his similarly wronged brothers, hot-headed Eiji (Tatsuya Fuji) ... See full summary »
A young yakuza hitman named Goro does a job and needs to hideout away from Tokyo for a while. He hangs out with loose women and hard men and always manages to stay one step ahead of the law. In his exile, he comes under suspicion for a murder and meets the girlfriend of the murdered man. They develop a strange bond while unbeknown to Goro, another hitman is after him for the job he did in Tokyo.Written by
Fred Cabral <email@example.com>
Punchy, 60's set B-thriller from director Toshio Masuda
A suitably swinging, 60's set crime picture in the tradition of many early Seijun Suzuki pot-boilers - such as Underworld Beauty (1958), The Fighting Delinquents (1960) and Youth of the Beast (1963) - and produced by Suzuki's then bosses at the infamous Nikkatsu company, Velvet Hustler (1967) - aka Like a Shooting Star - is a similarly stylish and energetically directed B-picture filled with double-crossing gangsters, sultry femme-fatals and a writhing plot filled with a number of outrageous twists and turns. Though it lacks the obvious visual experimentation and adventurous disregard for logic and convention that was often illustrated by Suzuki's work - in particular, celebrated cult thrillers like Tokyo Drifter (1966) and Branded to Kill (1967) - Velvet Hustler features a number of similar thematic elements and a general reliance on film noir clichés and stock-characteristics lifted from the kind of gritty, self-aware and intellectualised crime thrillers coming out of France and Europe in the late 50's/early 1960's.
As is often the case with these particular Nikkatsu B-pictures, the plot of Velvet Hustler focuses on a central character - often a young thug designed to be an almost Japanese Dean Martin type - who is too thoughtful, ambitious, philosophical or romantic for the violent underworld that he finds himself caught up in, and eventually tries to escape amidst an onslaught of back-stabbing and violent double-crosses. Though there are elements of that formula presented here, director Toshio Masuda also throws a few bold subversions into the mix; introducing us to a complicated central character that goes against the usual concerns of honour and loyalty so central to the Yakuza sub-genre by assassinating his own boss, which then leads the course of the narrative in a number of directions that we wouldn't normally expect from this kind of material. To once again stress the Suzuki comparisons even further, we here have a great central performance from Tetsuya Watari - who famously took the lead in the maverick director's classic, aforementioned revenge flick, Tokyo Drifter - while support is offered from the truly iconic Jo Shishido, familiar to most Japanese B-movie fans from films like Youth of the Beat and Branded to Kill, as well as the epic Battles Without Honour and Humanity (1974) from director Kinji Fukasaku.
Here, Watari plays the character of Goro, who after killing his boss takes a job as a bodyguard protecting prostitutes in the Yakuza controlled coastal city of Kobe. By choosing the assignment, Goro places himself in the midst of the very gangsters that he was initially trying to escape from; an audacious move that he believes will lessen the suspicions surrounding the assassination of his former master. However, in keeping with the conventions of this particular genre, it isn't long before a bourgeoning relationship with a treacherous femme-fatale, played by Ruriko Asaoka, brings the attention of the local police, the Yakuza syndicate that he betrayed, and a shadowy hit man from Tokyo. As you could expect from such a set-up, the film is riddled with the kind of generic, film-noir clichés that we've come to know and love from post-war crime cinema of this particular period, whilst Masuda's bold direction, taking full advantage of the 60's iconography, fashions and cultural references of the time, gives the film a further sense of energy and immediacy that works well with this particular kind of story.
The film ties in nicely with many other Nikkatsu projects of this era, though I'm perhaps inclined to agree with the previous reviewer who felt that the scenes of action and implied brutality where somewhat dry in comparison to many other Japanese films being produced during this era. Nonetheless, the direction is first rate - with Masuda making great use of muted colours and that excellent use of cinemascope cinematography - while the overall approach to the film, with its street-level confrontations and back-room conspiracies stressing the influence of Jean Luc Godard; in particular films like À bout de soufflé (1960), Le Petit Soldat (1960) and Bande à part (1964). Once again, what I like about this film is the energy and the window into a particular time and place, not only in terms of the characters and the narrative, but in a film-making sense as well. I love the energy here, and the occasional moment of high camp as the producers throw in yet another archaic moment of zeitgeist capturing silliness clearly intended to appeal to the youth audience; such as the fantastic moment where Goro - after having picked a fight with a fellow gangster in a backstreet go-go bar - begins dancing with the rest of the kids in a way that is both amusing and coolly iconic.
It's far from being a complete masterpiece, with the limitations of the budget and the nature of its production, combined with the 60's spirit and the obvious reliance on film noir references and clichés no doubt acting as a hindrance for many viewers not as well accustomed to this particular style and era of Japanese film production. However, if you consider yourself a fan of the aforementioned Suzuki or some of the early Nikkatsu produced films of Shōhei Imamura (although those were much more expansive than this), or can respect the work of directors like Godard, Melville or Tarantino (who has obviously taken some influence from the films of this era) then you should easily get some sense of enjoyment from Masuda's dependable plotting, exciting gangland explorations and some fine moments of directorial vision. Apparently the film is something of a loose remake of Masuda's own film, Crimson Seaport (1958). I haven't seen that particular work, but judging from the success of Velvet Hustler, I'd certainly be interested in tracking it down.
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