Archive for May 10th, 2012

In the 6th Red Peony Gambler series, Oryu searches for a blind female child Kimiko she left behind years ago. She finds her as an adult in Tokyo and now a petty thief. She tries to help her and finds the head of the Teppokyu yakuza clan, an old friend of hers who is willing to take her in as his own daughter. A rival clan, the Samezuno is trying to push into Teppokyu’s territory in Asakusa. The head of the Samezuno is using the marriage of Kimiko and one of their clan as an excuse to do this. He wants to take over the Tokyo Theater currently owned by Teppokyu. He plans to use any underhanded tactic to get his objective but sees Oryu as a threat. Teppokyu’s leader is tricked into going alone somewhere and is stabbed to death by some of Samezuno’s goons. This is a perfect excuse for an all out war between the two clans. Oryu has plans for her own revenge mission and she will not back down until she has killed the Samezuno leader.

If you’re wondering why I’ve gone straight for the 6th in the 8 movie series, it’s because this one in the Top 100 Kinema Junpo list. The Red Peony Gambler series centres on a 2nd generation yakuza boss from Kyushu called Oryu whose character was a chivalrous gambler. The genre was popular in Japan during the late 60’s but faded as a new, chaotic and more vicious yakuza movies (The Battles Without Honor series) started to appear in the early to mid 70’s. I found this to be an interesting and compelling yakuza movie with a difference. You won’t find any modern looking yakuza in this movie at all. No flashy looking shirts and that stuff. All of the requirements for a good yakuza movie are present here: finger chopping, gambling, swordfights, gunplay, honour, loyalty, brotherhood, righteousness etc. For fans of old fashioned yakuza movies this movie is very good. Tattooed female yakuza who brandished guns and swords were few and far between in Japanese cinema of the 60s/70s but there was one person who stood out above the rest and Junko Fuji as Oryu was it and apparently still remains to this day the measuring stick by which all other yakuza actresses are judged. She was the complete package: beautiful, graceful, charismatic, violent, nurturing, stern and emotional. She is excellent as Oryu and delivers a wonderful performance in this movie. She’s a type of yakuza leader who’s cool, calm and collected and who only resorts to violence when pushed to the very limit. However when she does have to fight she is no slouch. She hides a shortsword in her clothes which only comes out when necessary and Oryu is highly skilled with the weapon. Unlike other female yakuza movies of the era, the lead character Oryu never goes naked and is more of a dignified person. It would have been easy for the filmmakers to have made the series into more of an exploitative affair but with Junko having a bit of clout with Toei Studios as her father was a film producer with the company that avenue was snuffed out. Makes a nice change actually but even with nudity not present the violence aspect is high and there’s plenty of gore on show here especially as we enter the 2nd half of the movie.

Those that love yakuza movies and expect to see a beautiful woman just going on a revenge mission and slicing and dicing some bad guys for the majority of the movie’s running time are going to be disappointed here. That stuff does happen but it’s limited for the final third of the movie. For an old fashioned-type yakuza movie I really enjoyed it and it’s certainly worth seeing.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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James and Bond are 2 professional sports car thieves who specialise in taking Porsches and Ferraris. When they are forced to steal a car on a daily basis for a HK gang boss they run foul of a tough female cop Tequila who is determined to bring them to justice. When they steal a white Porsche which has a tank full of cocaine, the drug baroness Miego orders her Western henchmen to track them down and retrieve the goods.

A very good action movie which would have been better had it not been for the unfocused plot. Although Frankie Chan is billed as the main star, it’s Yukari Oshima who steals the movie with her incredible martial arts performance. This would be her breakout role and propel her into being a HK action mainstay over the next couple of years. The Outlaw Brothers is hampered with a weak script as during the middle section of the movie it dips badly and goes off on another tangent about Bond wanting to get married to a girl who’s prepared to clean him out of money. I started to become bored as the plot lost it’s way which is a shame as the opening 40 mins had been terrific with a couple of superb set-pieces which included Frankie Chan fighting off a bunch of security guards in a parking lot with a broom. Thankfully though the story seems to recover in time for an amazing climax at a warehouse in which we see Yukari Oshima’s character Tequila have one of the best scraps you’ll ever see in a HK movie. She shows off her natural athleticism and extraordinary skills in dealing with the foreign bad guys. The choreography for her fights was put together by none other than Jackie Chan who also helped out with other scenes. The fight sequences are fast, intricate and imaginative and you can tell they’ve all got the JC mark on them. There’s a couple of good car chases as well. The humour in this movie is OK I suppose.

Frankie Chan is charming as James. His chemistry with Yukari Oshima’s Tequila is enjoyable and a lot of fun to watch. What else can I say about Yukari Oshima that hasn’t already been said about her in this movie. She is awesome in this movie and it is easily one of her best HK action roles. Michiko Nishiwaki seems to be wasted here in role as the drugs baroness Miego, she doesn’t get involved at all until the final 5 minutes.

I do have to mention that if you’re an animal fan then be prepared for some scenes of seeing chickens in distress in the climatic warehouse scene as a load of them are dropped from a container above the floor. Some of the poor birds are seen to be dying and writhing in agony on the floor and I’m sure a car runs over a couple of them too. I’m surprised that this has survived not being cut from the UK DVD version.

If it wasn’t for the boring middle section, this movie would have been rated higher. It’s still a worthwhile movie to watch if only for the brilliant action scenes.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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