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Movie Review : High Noon Showdown For Japanese Gangsters

December 27, 1985|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

"Yasha" (at the Kokusai) is so hopelessly silly that it could pass as a parody of the yakuza (gangster) pictures that brought fame to its durable star Ken Takakura. Determinedly solemn and romantic, it's like a bad French imitation of an American gangster movie.

How often have we seen on the screen the man Takakura plays: the ex-bad guy whose past catches up with him? For 15 years Takakura has been a fisherman, living quietly with his family in a remote seacoast village. But then arrives a beautiful young woman (Yuko Tanaka), to take over the local bar, and she's soon followed by her heroin-addict gangster boyfriend (Beat Takeshi), who's soon got virtually the whole fleet shooting up.

A man's gotta do what he's gotta do, right? But the way Takakura goes about it defies credibility. Why doesn't it occur to him that Takeshi will react violently when deprived of heroin? In the inevitable fight between the two men, the elaborate yakuza tattoo that covers Takakura's back is exposed, revealing his true identity. It features a highly stylized portrait of a yash a or demon; pretty soon we realize that Tanaka is herself a yasha.

Takakura's sensitivity, Yanaka's exquisite looks and talent (put to much better use in "Amagi Pass") and Yasuo Furuhata's stylish direction finally serve only to underline the foolishness of Tsutomu Nakamura's script. "He hasn't changed," remarks an underworld kingpin's widow when Takakura visits after many years, "he's as stupid as ever." Golly, we knew that by the end of the first reel.

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