3 out of 5
Directed by: Takashi Miike
New Third Yakuza: Outbreak Kansai Yakuza Wars (the second film in the ‘Third Yakuza’ trilogy…) is an interesting, if very minor, entry in early Miike filmmaking. Coming around the same time as the more notable Shinjuku Triad Society, Yakuza starts out very straight-laced – both in presentation and story – before becoming more expressive in its latter half.
The setup is fairly bare bones: Masaki Reijiro (Kiyoshi Nakajo) retires from one yakuza family due to his adherence to his principles, only to be picked up by a rival family, seemingly for that same principality. This puts him at odds with less savory types in his new clan, who plot to overthrow him by nefarious means. The background on Masaki’s initial decision is a little unclear to me; since it’s referenced in flashback type clips, I’ll assume this is made clearer in the preceding flick, which is unfortunately currently unavailable to me… but a strong central performance from Nakajo prevents this gap from becoming an issue, and the vagueness of it feels more in line with how Miike tends to structure things. So this might be a worse movie if I’m ever able to see the original.
Eventually, not only does Masaki’s morality get him into an intra-clan scuffle, it also puts his family and friends at risk, which is where the flick starts to kick up a notch and strays from the usual masculine badass yakuza stuff, and our tripod camera starts to go more and more handheld. Notes of Miike’s humor (and digressions into sexual violence…) crop up as well, but it’s all employed in a mostly straight forward manner; the movie is much more of a typical low budget yakuza film than anything else, but certainly a watchable one, with some good beats and a compelling lead.