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Directed by yakuza genre stalwart Toshio Masuda, this 1968 feature was the first of six movies based on the recollections of a real hitman. Goro is a dedicated but somewhat reluctant gangster. Released from prison after stabbing a rival, he is immediately dragged back into the criminal life because he has debts. He is also very concerned with women: the woman who vowed to wait for him but married a salaryman, the fiancée of the man he attacked, and a naive young girl from the country whom he rescues from attackers and who battens on to him like a limpet, believing he is not a yakuza in his heart.
As the inter-gang rivalry escalates, Goro battles his way through an escalating and excitingly shot series of knife fights and operatic deaths, committed to the yakuza code of honour and revenge but yearning also for the peaceful ‘hometown’ life he lost when he was imprisoned as a child. Masuda excels himself in this well-made film, which foregrounds character and relationships as much as action.
Screening as part of Japan 2021: 100 years of Japanese Cinema, a UK-wide film season supported by National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network. bfijapan.co.uk