Graveyard of Honor – DVD Review

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Directed by
Takashi Miike

Narumi Arimori … Chieko Kikuta
Yoshiyuki Daichi … Yoshiyuki Ooshita
Hirotaro Honda … Correctional officer
Harumi Inoue … Yôko Imamura
Renji Ishibashi … Denji Yukawa
Goro Kishitani … Rikuo Ishimatsu
Takashi Miike … Restaurant gunman
Ryôsuke Miki … Kôzô Imamura
Yasukaze Motomiya … Kanemoto

The Movie:

In the case of modern Japanese cinema, it would be hard to find a director more consistent than Takashi Miike. No matter what genre the director is working in, whether it is his horror epics (Audition, Visitor Q), children’s action movies (The Great Yokai War, Zebraman), science fiction (Full Metal Yakuza) or even musicals (The Happiness of the Katakuris), Miike always puts together a film that is at least visually arresting. They’re also usually completely insane. Such is also the case with his gangster epics about the Yakuza, such as his Dead or Alive trilogy.

With Miike’s Graveyard of Honor, it’s interesting to watch the director make a film that is more reserved than usual on a visual level, trying to emulate the Japanese gangster pictures of 1970’s. If only his story could hold you in the same way his camera does, the film could possibly be a masterpiece. Unfortunately, the film is so unflinchingly ugly, and its main character so unlikable that it’s difficult to consider the film anything but a failure.

The film stars Goro Kishitani as Rikuo Ishimatsu, a man whose fortunes suddenly change when he saves the life of a Yakuza boss from an assassination attempt. Inducted into their lifestyle, Ishimatsu finds nothing beyond his grasp. He lives the good life and wants for nothing, but the life goes to his head. Excess pushes his behavior too far until he is outcast and on the run for his life.

As the film’s main character, Goro Kishitani is uncompromising in his performance. He never pulls any punches as his character delves deeper and deeper into his own personal hell, and his presence is quite potent on screen. The thing is, his character is so reprehensible that you never feel emotionally involved in the story. Ishimatsu is a rapist and a sadist, and goes so far to excess that you completely stop caring whether he lives or dies. Any time the film starts to finally pull you in emotionally, Ishimatsu will do something so repugnant that you can’t help but keep the film at a distance. It’s that same sort of repulsive feeling you get when Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito kills Spider in Goodfellas only stretched out for an entire movie.

This is too bad because Miike constructs such an interesting film around Ishimatsu. Graveyard of Honor is a remake of a classic Kinji Fukasaku picture, and the director does his best to try and emulate the style of 70’s Japanese cinema. The camera is constantly moving, yet never really coming in too tight. The look of the film is kind drab, but this only adds to the atmosphere. This isn’t the comic book-style Yakuza of Kill Bill; this is a hard core gangland tale with horrible consequences for those that step over the line.

The violence depicted within is stunning at times. One assassination happens so quickly that you’re not even sure if it even happened, and then when the victim realizes his throat has been slit, the scene is appropriately horrifying. Another scene in which Ishimatsu gets retribution against another Yakuza that has hit his wife is absolutely vicious in its brutality.

If only Miike had made his main character one that we actually cared about, then this film would be endlessly fascinating. Instead Ishimatsu seems to have no admirable qualities whatsoever, which confuses the audience when others try to stand by him, only to be betrayed. In the end, the movie just feels like a waste, of both talent and your time.

The DVD:

The Video
The print on this disc looks pretty good, as the image never looks washed out or too dark to see any of the action. This isn’t a sparkling print, but Miike was probably going for a gritty look, which is very much what is on the disc. The film is presented in Anamorphic Widescreen with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1

The Audio
The Audio track is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and is also fine. There isn’t a point where audio is too low and the action or soundtrack never drowned out what characters are saying.


Interview Special – This Featurette goes 17 minutes and features Miike and others talking about the conception and making of the film. Goro Kishitani talks about how he really didn’t understand the script and had to look at it in a warped sense, the way the character would, to really “get” the piece.

“Making of” Teaser – This is a two minute teaser for the movie telling people what it’s about.

Premiere Special – This little promotional featurette shows the cast showing up to the premiere of the film.

Press Release Interviews – These interviews have Miike and the cast talking about character motivations and other aspects of the production. Miike at one point states this film isn’t really a remake, but like a little brother to Kinji Fukasaku film, which is actually a pretty accurate statement.

Theatrical Trailers – You get trailers for this film and other from AnimEigo.

Image Gallery

Interactive Program Notes

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Graveyard of Honor
(OUT OF 10)






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