Blu-ray Review: Detective Bureau 2-3 & Street Mobster

For the longest time if felt like the movies of Japan that arrived in America fell into two categories. First there was Godzilla flicks that featured the giant monsters stomping Tokyo. They played theaters and Saturday afternoon TV during the Creature Double Feature. The second genre was Samurai Cinema which was a little more sophisticated although with their noble codes and numerous people getting chopped up by swords. These stuck the the art houses where people spoke in hushed tones of the genius of Akira Kurosawa. Even in the golden age of VHS, these were what could be found on the shelves. Little did most of know that there was a whole amazing genre wrapped around the criminal element of the Land of the Rising Son. Now thanks to DVDs and Blu-rays, cinephiles finally have a chance to truly absorb these tales of the Japanese version of the Mafia. Two new arrivals give us a peak at two directors whose long careers overseas are getting proper enjoyment in America. Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards is private detective tangling with mob business from Seijun Suzuki (Tokyo Drifter). Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale) goes deep into the bottom ranks of organized crime in Street Mobster.

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards (1963) deals with mobsters involved in a truckload of stolen weapons from a military base. There was a hijacking of the shipment by another mob family so everything is getting nasty. Detective Hideo Tajima (Nikkatsu Diamond Guys‘ Jô Shishido) from Detective Bureau 2-3 arrives at the police station that has been surrounded by a rival gang fully armed under the legal guise that they are about to go hunting. They’re basically ready to take out the only suspect the police have nabbed. It’s up to Tajima and his small crew to not only get the mobster out of jail alive, but to get him to leak out the clues about the weapons. The action scenes are exciting especially at the start when armed men on a Pepsi truck take over the U.S. Army weapons on a military vehicle. The jazzy soundtrack pumps up the energy on the screen. Shishido is cool under pressure as his plan goes into effect even if the cops think he’s going to be deadmeat with the only guessing game being which Yakuza family will kill him. Seijun Suzuki keeps a level of tension and cool on the screen that would

Street Mobster (1972) is amazingly gritty and nasty on the screen. Fukasaku takes us into the life and the fights of Isamu Okita (Spirited Away‘s Bunta Sugawara). He’s part of a rough and tumble crew that shake down business for cash and sells women to brothels after getting them hooked on heroin. They’re not nice guys driven by a code. The crew screws up and Okita gets caught and sent off to prison. After a few years locked up, he comes out only to discover so much of the mob life has changed. He does his best to get hooked up with the new Yakuza, but he doesn’t want to play by the rules. This goes extra bad when he pushes back against the wrong person. Martin Scorsese ought to be thrilled that Street Mobster didn’t come to America because Fukasaku would have set the bar with audiences when it came to mob action. Fukasaku gets his camera deep into the brawls. He’s like a guy with his cellphone filming as fists come from all around. Sugawara owns the screen as the mobster who comes off as so brutal even in situations where you’d expect them to be looking for sympathy. He won’t back down from the thug life. He even has a twisted relationship with a woman that he doomed for a horrible life before he was sent to prison. Street Mobster is an intense experience that’s relentless in showing the harsh life on the bottom rung of crime. If you haven’t experienced a Yakuza film, Street Mobster is the one to start your collection.

Besides being great gangster tales, both films feature directors finding their prime leading actors. Shishido would be the lead in Suzuki’s cult masterpiece Branded to Kill. Sugawara would go on to star in Fukasaku’s highly successful Battles Without Honor and Humanity movie series. Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards and Street Mobster show that Japan was more than guys in rubber monster suits and samurai swords.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic. The transfers on both films bring out the details. The audio is Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 for both films. The mix brings out the screaming and fighting. The movies are subtitled.

Tony Rayns on Detective Bureau 2-3 (29:01) points out that this movie that lets Jô Shishido dance the Charleston. He talks of the history between Shishido and director Seijun Suzuki.This was Jo’s first lead role with Seijun.

Stills (4:20) has numerous black and white production photos from the production.

Arrow Video presents Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards. Directed by Seijun Suzuki. Screenplay by: Iwao Yamazaki. Starring: Joe Shishido, Reiko Sasamori, Tamio Kawachi & Nobuo Kaneko Rated: Not Rated. Running Time: 88 minutes. Released: July 10, 2018.

Audio Commentary by Tom Mes, the co-author of The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film. He’s very informative about all the elements of the film. He fills in the history of director Kinji Fukasaku and how this was part of the “True Account” Yakuza genre. This went against the chivalry mobsters films that focused on pre-World War II. They new school as found in Street Mobster didn’t glamorize the criminal life.

Theatrical Trailer (2:41) lays out the violence to come from the mobsters.

Still Gallery (1:00) are black and white stills and promotional items.

Arrow Video presents Street Mobster. Directed by Kinji Fukasaku. Screenplay by: Kinji Fukasaku & Yoshihiro Ishimatsu. Starring: Bunta Sugawara, Noboru Ando, Asao Koike and Hideo Murota Rated: Not Rated. Running Time: 91 minutes. Released: August 7, 2018.

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