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Cinemalphabet: Y is for The Yakuza (1974)

September 29, 2011

The late Sydney Pollack – a frequently mentioned fave of mine – is one of two reasons I decided to finally screen this film; the other Taken (2008). Particularly, how much of the Liam Neeson action hit models itself after The Yakuza.

    [The Yakuza] It’s very violent, and the fact that the violence has been choreographed by a skilled director (Sidney Pollack, who made “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?”) just makes it all the more extreme.

(via Roger Ebert)

    Pollack provides some interesting analysis on the film

While I would hardly accuse the makers of Taken of flat out stealing, It was fairly amusing how much resemblance it bears to The Yakuza. Okay, so Liam Neeson isn’t exactly Robert Mitchum, but now I know where the former learned to lock his jaw on even the most dubious of plot points and affix his gaze on a distant goal (buying a beach house) while seeming fully committed to his character.

    ooh, action!

Oh the shit I did not give about the plight of this group of characters. Mitchum, who stalks the streets of Tokyo sporting a pistol in one hand and a shotgun in another and not much else, seems both woefully miscast and hilariously perfect for the role. The exposition fumbles with plot and character points that left me confused as to what was at stake and which character I should be rooting for. This is to be expected when a “classy” directors attempt to tackle genre materials. Pollack is always skillful at making the ordinary seem visually alluring, which is of little use in the pulpy gangster genre. Where Pollack struggles (thus making the film somewhat of a dud to me) is his choice to try to class up all the carnage. The Yakuza takes itself waaaay too seriously. I laughed in many parts I’m sure weren’t intentionally humorous and that’s not good. Absent is the wit and stylistic choices of Three Days of the Condor or even The Firm. Trying to make what otherwise would be a small picture about tangling with a crime syndicate into a big stylish thriller results in The Yakuza becoming a big stylish mess!

But the fight scenes were on point!

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