Saturday, December 31, 2011
It took a lot of thought and debate from the Yakuza Film Academy, and after much debate, three stabbings, and a shooting, consensus was at last reached. The categories were developed with much thought, and the most deserving winners will go home tonight with a scowling Yakkie to put on the mantle in a display of epic awesome that they have earned with blood, sweat, tears, and a back alley mortal combat death match. The movies in contention for the epic golden statue are all of the ones that were reviewed in 2011.
So, without further ado, on with the show. Tonight, we have a variety of categories that touch on all of the important things in Yakuza films, like death, destruction, and bravado. Our first category is:
Biggest Show of Epic Badassery.
Tokyo Mafia: Yakuza Wars (1995) clinched the win for Takeuchi Riki. Sure, cutting off your own finger as an act of contrition already smacks of bad-ass, but Takeuchi Riki took it a step further - he bit off his own finger. And in the eyes of the judges, that's just beyond bad-ass. Well deserved, in my estimation.
Like a Dragon been reviewed this year, Kishitani Goro would have taken home the gold with his portrayal of Majima. But since he's not in the running, the Yakkie for Best Lunatic goes straight into the hands of Jo Akio for his portrayal of the nameless psychotic Chinese gangster-assassin in Blood. Without any dialogue to speak of, this lunatic killer offs his victims by suffocating them with plastic bags, all the while with a wide-eyed frozen grin. I'm not sure if it's creative brilliance or pure uninspired hackery, but it stood out, and that's what counts.
Most Derivative Yakuza Film.
Score was a heist movie in more ways than one. It stole liberally from Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and, oddly enough, Jean Claude Van Damme's movie Hard Target. And when I say stole, I don't mean it was inspired by, but that it literally took everything from costumes to concepts to plot points to actual scenes, and recreated them. Normally that kind of thing will get you sued, but in the case of Score, it scored it a golden statuette. The movie was interesting enough, if for no other reason than to see the variety of ways it recycled old movie parts from Quentin Tarrantino and John Woo, and so the win is well deserved. After all, every movie needs a gimmick, even if the gimmick in question is that is rips off entire plots and scenes from another movie. It's a valid gimmick.
Film with the Most Random Characters.
Party 7 was short on plot and purpose, but it did have an interesting cast of eclectic characters. Everyone from the bumbling Yakuza, Miki, to his super hot ex-girlfriend to her strange and wimpy current boyfriend, to Captain Banana and Okita Soji, to everyone else - they each bring something to the table, even if it's just a little quirk or odd manner. Miki is the presumed main character, but everyone gets equal play, and in a movie where the plot doesn't really matter, that's important. And each character is so random and wildly different than the next, it helps keep an otherwise pointless movie interesting.
Most Creative Death Scene.
Outrage, creative uses of brutality become the standard. You've probably seen the clips on YouTube of heads smashed with rocks, epic uses of rogue dentistry, gunshots and bomb blasts, but the one stand-out kill of Outrage (Spoiler Alert) is the death of Kippei Shiina's character Mizuno. I'll limit the spoiler by saying it involves a car and a length of rope, and it falls into the realm of "more difficult than it's worth", sort of like the bad guy in a James Bond movie using a slow-moving lazer to eviscerate the hero who is tied to a table, when a bullet to the head would be much more expedient. Either way, kudos to Kitano for coming up with it - this is why we watch Yakuza movies in the first place.
Most Violent Film.
Blood - however Outrage displayed some of the most visceral and disturbing violence of any movie reviewed this year. Kitano was apparently making up for lost time with his latest flick, and that's why we love it - mean spirited gangsters killing each other off in betrayal after betrayal with uninhibited brutality, and without even the morbidly comforting pretext that it was justified; that's just how these guys are, and the win is well deserved.
That's it for the Yakuza Film Rundown awards for 2011, see you next year, where we'll be bringing you even more reviews of films from the Yakuza film genre. And more violence.