The Third Yakuza 2 (Shin daisan no gokudō II)

3 out of 5

Directed by: Takashi Miike

Even though it’s the third film in the ‘Third Gangster’ trilogy, I’d say there’s a reason it’s numbered as the second one: while the preceding Shin daisan no gokudō: boppatsu Kansai gokudō sensō ended with a cliffhanger-ish reveal, and the two sequels to the first flick were shot back to back Shin daisan no gokudō II is much more of a followup to film 1 than 2, to the extent that, not having seen the first one, a lot of the character juggling and setup here is hard to follow, whereas boppatsu Kansai gokudô sensô was generally straight forward.  Not that the general gist is complicated – the hard-principled Rejiro Masaki is still being bounced around yakuza families, and those who aren’t down with his black and white morality are still trying to kill him – but the film mixes in characters presumably set up in the original with new characters in a way that makes it unclear what you’re supposed to know and what you’re not.  Things settle after about a half hour, when a clear rival – a hobbling assassin; a sort of template Miike sadist oddball – emerges, and the main plot thrust of trying to suss out who is behind various double dealings finds relative focus.

I actually enjoyed boppatsu Kansai gokudô sensô, even as an undeniably lower tier Miike movie, and while the followup is a bit tonally different, I feel it’s a more confident piece over all, showing a larger mixing of humor and drama and action than the preceding flick, with some interesting setups.  The motley crew assembled around Masaki is again a highlight, and this time their one or two line stories offer some tip-toeing into Miike themes of inherited behaviors, and disconnection.  The conclusion to all of this definitely seems achieved after about an hour, though, so the sense of burbling expression ‘neath the more generic yakuza-flick veneer fades away by the end of the film