• Seventeen Ninja

    Seventeen Ninja

    ★★★★

    A very brief story told in the most straightforward manner make this film quite unique in that it knows its goals and it reaches them. Seventeen ninjas from th famous Iga Ninjas are hired by the Shogunate to steal a document from a castle to insure Iemitsu inherits the Shogunate after his imminent father's death, that's it the whole story. This seemingly impossible mission of infiltrating an impenetrable castle is made more difficult by the enemy's Ninja leader. The film…

  • Round About Midnight

    Round About Midnight

    ★★★½

    Japanese cinema of the 80s and 90s is often overlooked and goes underappreciated and this is no different, it has all the elements of a solid film. A neo noir set in Tokyo and drenched in Jazz, the story is very straightforward and feels like a noir video game with sudden quests popping up and then slowly revealing the plot with some chases, fights and action sequences in between all to the sweet sounds of the trumpet. Acting is very…

  • Revenge

    Revenge

    ★★★★

    Another masterfully directed Imai Tadashi film from the 60s that is heavily critical of the samurai class and specifically the samurai code of honour, Bushido. Well directed, good soundtrack, great performance, great sword choreography, and a very impressive cinematography make this a complete package. What might hinder the film for some is the straightforward story but I see this as a positive, a relatively short story that is told in a very straightforward manner while remaining interesting due the presentation. The film is a mix of flashbacks and flashforwards for the firat part and the second is a path to the final fight of epic scale.

  • Aesthetics of a Bullet

    Aesthetics of a Bullet

    ★★★★

    Quite an atypical Yakuza film, if you can call it that, this is more of a drama character study that's wearing a Yakuza skin. There's isn't a single bullet fired until the climax of the film, this might sound boring but it certainly isn't because there's always a constant tension brewing in the scenes but at the same time given that we know how it's going to end there's a tragic feel on top. Those moments of tension really help…

  • The Machine Gun Dragon

    The Machine Gun Dragon

    ★★★★½

    Yet another film where Bunta Sugawara's masculinity radiates excessively, this is the tale of a true lone wolf an outsider even in the world of Yakuza. Ton of action with memorable sequences, 70s soundtrack, a simple straightforward story that's a little bit off the beaten path but not too much, all these make this a top tier entertaining yakuza (kind of) film. And yea, Bunta Sugawara.

  • Samurai Spy

    Samurai Spy

    ★★★★½

    Shinoda Masahiro’s cinema will never cease to amaze, this is yet another phenomenal work from the New Wave rebel. Trying to summarize it or drawing comparisons would prove very difficult indeed, as this film crosses multiple genres. This is Metal Gear Solid the Samurai/Shinobi edition. But in cinematic terms it’s closest to a Jean-Pierre Melville film, with the political intrigue of a Costa-Gavras and the thrill of a film noire, a bit of Hitchcock, and a dose of 1960s New…

  • The Family Game

    The Family Game

    ★★★★½

    On the surface level this story is quite simple, a Japanese family with two kids, one of the kids is having trouble at school with his low grades and so his parents hire a tutor, and that is indeed what happens here but it’s so much more than that.

    A very “flat” shot of the family having dinner with the tutor.
    Director Yoshimitsu Morita always starts with the familiar and then shifts and changes it just enough to keep us…

  • Giants and Toys

    Giants and Toys

    ★★★★½

    Giants and Toys sets out to subvert any cinematic expectations one had at the time, and it succeeded while paving the way for the New Wave of the 60s. At the surface this is the story of three candy companies competing in a unforgiving market but Masumura takes it a lot of steps further to strike at the heart of socio-political issues using every cinematic tool available at his disposal with a low budget. The camera, just like everything else,…

  • Code of Wolves

    Code of Wolves

    ★★★★

    A brutal yakuza tale that follows Japan's socioeconomic changes from 1920s till early 1940s. We see this tale unfold through the eyes of two complex characters played by Sugawara Bunta and Kobayashi Akira. The story may seem complex but it's straight to the point, powerful drama with great violent action to back it up.

  • Gonin

    Gonin

    ★★★★

    One way to describe this is a toned down Takashi Miike film and more. This is an atypical Yakuza film, a crime drama where people actually get shot, where everything action has real consequences. The action is all here in a bloody glory with everything highlighted by the cinematography and the editing but the drama is truned up too and with it comes a more sombre visual tone with the camera and editing. The soundtrack is good with the main…

  • The Most Terrible Time in My Life

    The Most Terrible Time in My Life

    ★★★★

    The first installment in the Maiku Hama detective trilogy is a thrilling ride, from the opening scene we know this is not going to be a normal straightforward story, we start in a cinema showing Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) this is used sarcastically in the themes of the film and it’s also reflected in its title. “The Most Terrible Time in My Life” this couldn’t have been more true of the story of Maiku Hama, a…

  • Hanagatami

    Hanagatami

    ★★★★½

    This is the theatre of the surreal, the cinema of dreams and memories, the cinema of Ôbayashi. This film with its complete rejection of reality somehow comes out as a perfect mirror of reality, and this here is the genius of Ôbayashi. In taking the past, memories and present and shredding any linearity existence becomes one, we start reading life as a whole, and this is just that. Every second of the runtime feels like the director is saying goodbye…