AKA: New Graveyard of Honor
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Goro Fujita, Shigenori Takechi
Cast: Narumi Arimori, Yoshiyuki Daichi, Hirotaro Honda, Harumi Inoue, Renji Ishibashi, Goro Kishitani, Takashi Miike, Ryosuke Miki, Yasukaze Motomiya, Mikio Osawa, Daisuke Ryu, Harumi Sone, Shun Sugata
Running Time: 131 min.
“A Yakuza without honor isn’t worth sh*t.” So says a Yakuza Godfather towards the end of Graveyard of Honor, and the entire movie puts this notion to the test against a terrifying new breed of gangster that is without honor or any recognizably human emotion, portrayed by lead actor Goro Kishitani (The Returner) in a terrifying performance.
The story begins when a lowly dishwasher (Goro Kishitani) saves the life of a Yakuza Godfather in the middle of a gangland-style hit. Almost overnight, Goro find himself inducted into the Yakuza and appointed to a top position in the Godfather’s crime family. Only too late does the Sawada Family realize they’ve placed a mad dog at the head of their table – Goro doesn’t care about Yakuza tradition or rules, and he’ll kill anyone who so much as rubs him the wrong way. While Goro has a few allies among his gangster brethren (a superb Ryosuke Miki), it isn’t long before he’s pitted himself against the entire Yakuza.
The film itself is a remake of a 1975 film from Kinji Fukasaku, the director of Battle Royale, but Takashi Miike (13 Assassins) takes to the material as if it were own. Despite working on a low budget, Miike delivers a visually interesting film via superb camera placement and some gloriously long takes even when a lot of action is unfolding onscreen. Graveyard features the kind of over-the-top violence that has become something of a signature for Miike, although it’s not taken to the manga-esque levels of movies like Ichi the Killer.
AnimEigo offers the film in a 2-Disc DVD set, lavishing the film with the kind of respect and care you wish all distributors would lend their top class Asian films. Subtitles are well-translated and easy to read, and come in an optional two different colors. The second disc is reserved for Special Features, such as interviews and footage from the premiere, for those interested in exploring supplemental content. Fans of Graveyard of Honor couldn’t ask for a better release than what AnimEigo has given us here.
With Graveyard of Honor, Takashi Miike is able to meld the traditional Yakuza film – featuring plenty of brutal stabbings and gunfights – with the kind of decadent, heroin-fueled downward spiral you’d associate with a rock star. It’s a grim journey as our lead character lacks anything you’d call empathy, but the result is one of the most satisfying and memorable films of the director’s prolific career. Even if you feel like you’ve seen most of what the Yakuza genre has to offer, Graveyard of Honor is well worth seeking out.
HKFanatic’s Rating: 8.5/10