Hideo Gosha’s 1974 Yakuza crime thriller Violent Streets(暴力街,Bôryoku gai) is the latest film to join the ever increasing Eureka Entertainment’s Masters Of Cinema series.
Once again they do not disappoint, they don’t hold back on anything either. A gallery of rogues who exploited every nook and cranny of humanity if their clan gained control and power. A seedy underbelly that the lowest of the low slither in , the epitome of exertion. A hard hitting wild ride that deserves to be a ‘Master Of Cinema’.
When this film was released, Japanese cinema was at a crossroads especially in what films it released. Hollywood there was a new resurgence, other countries wanted a slice of that cake. Japan was one of them and changes had to be made to keep their nation’s film industry fresh for the time.
The traditional Samurai or Chambara (‘sword fighting films’) were still big box office draws . Things changed in the 1970s and studios turned to other genres, film-makers got more creative. Gangster films became more popular possibly all thanks to the likes of Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honour and Humanity. Hideo Gosha was another film-maker who came from television to cinema. From Three Outlaw Samurai (1964), to his brooding Yakuza film The Wolves (1971). Violent Streets was off course a more eccentric entry that never sh away from the dark and violent side of clans.
Violent Streets (also known as Violent City) stars Noboru Andô who also in real life was a former Yakuza clan member. He has the scars to catalogue his criminal past moving into not just acting he took up singing and wrote book. Andô used that experience into to many crime films he starred in to great effect.
In this one he plays Egawa another former Yakuza member who now runs a serious hip Spanish Flamenco bar in the Ginza district of Tokyo. The bar was gifted to him by the Togiku Clan after his stint inside. All thanks to keeping his mouth shut whilst doing time.
Like all good things those associate gang members want Egawa to join the fight against the rival Osaka gang. Togiku territory is now under threat as their rival try to expand. At the same time, lot’s of incidents are happen as both sides attempt to negotiate. Things get out of control when the kidnapping of a pop star is botched when she is killed. Thanks to the growing tension and pressure from all sides, Egawa has no choice to get involved.
When Violent Streets was released, it was released between the films part of the aforementioned Battles Without Honour and Humanity. Considered one of the best in the genre, it wasn’t a success at the box office. History has shown, many of the great films find the appreciation years later. Gosha’s is one of those films that has matured over time to be finally appreciated. Gritty and visceral, showing urban decay that could easy have been taken from the likes of The French Connection, Dirty Harry or even The Warriors.
The action is very much of the time, like a Quentin Tarantino wet dream. A mix of dialogue driven scenes breaking into an atmospheric, bloody action that could be a gun ballet. Even a sword and every day home utensil stuck a goons eye , throat or body. There is no rest for the wicked, dire consequences for any goon that gets in a rivals way. With the violence in these films comes eroticism, between the female hosts reminding us this is a depraved grimy netherworld that has no morality.
This film has many colourful, quirky characters. Noboru Andô’s Egawa is a quietly reflective man who fights the urge to step back into his old life. At times we get glimpses of that old life when certain individuals step over the line. His former peers are the opposite, threaten and merciless. Akira Kobayashi as Yazaki may embody the ‘businessman Yakuza’, his violent urges always seem to overpower any rationality. Legendary Bunta Suguwara makes a fleeting cameo as the laid back gun dealer. Someone who has been there done that in Japanese film history. We mustn’t forget the trans actor Madame Joy, mysterious and deadly with a Katana.
Violent Streets might have many faults. Behind the well used tropes, there is many things that will impress. One scene stands out particular is the Chicken Coop fight scene that’s metaphorical and opened to interpretation. A bold, kinetic, violent thriller that’s viscerally entertaining.
The film is presented in 2K comes with some solid extras. Including an in-depth interview about the Yakuza sub-genre and Essay from Jasper Sharp on the film.
Crime, Action, Thriller | Japan, 1974 | 15 | Blu-ray | 20th February 2023 (UK) | Eureka Entertainment | Dir.Hideo Gosha | Noboru Andô, Akira Kobayashi, Isao Natsuyagi, Bunta Suguwara, Tetsurô Tanba
This post was originally posted at The Peoples Movies on 22nd February 2023 | Original review link