12th May2015

‘Retaliation’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow Video)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Akira Kobayashi, Jô Shishido, Hideaki Nitani, Tamio Kawachi, Eiji Gô, Tatsuya Fuji, Jirô Okazaki, Meiko Kaji, Shôki Fukae, Ryôji Hayama, Kaku Takashina | Written by Yoshihiro Ishimatsu, Keiji Kubota | Directed by Yasuharu Hasebe


There’s something about Japanese gangster movies, whether it be the Stray Cat Rock films or others like Massacre Gun.  These movies are getting Arrow Video Blu-ray releases and as I review them I’m beginning to get a taste for the effortlessly cool style of not only the directors but also the actors, especially Jô Shishido.  Retaliation is an excellent example of just why I am getting hooked.

Jiro (Akira Kobayashi) an ex-convict is released onto the streets after being in jail to find his gang all but disbanded with only the aging boss hanging in there on his sick-bed.  Still loyal Jiro approaches the Hasama family for assistance.  Hasama gives Jiro a job, to settle a dispute between two rival gangs in a manufacturing city, which he agrees to do.  Joining with Hino (Jô Shishido) a man looking to gain revenge on him, but willing to help with the promise of duelling at a later time, he looks to not only eliminate the gangs but also protect the farmers whose land the gangs are battling over.

Where Massacre Gun is cooler with a focus less on violence, Retaliation as the name suggest has more of a focus on violence.  The tension between Jiro and Hino is interesting, especially the friendship they slowly form begrudgingly.  This is the key to their success, not only battling the other gangs but also dealing with the underhand tactics of the Hasama family.  The style in which the gang’s works has a more cynical feeling, but the effortless coolness of the Japanese gangster movies is still in full effect, especially with Jô Shishido who dominates every scene that he is in.

As is usual with these types of movies respect is the most important thing to the gangs, whether it is taking it away from the members or showing it.  Even the inevitable conclusion to the movie is brought about by a lack of respect, which is something that Jiro is very much focused on.  Once that is lost then all bets are off and anarchy ensues.  This is also why the friendship of Jiro and Hino works so well, the begrudging respect they have for each other fixes all other woes, though they do have a few battles along the way.

As always Arrow Video have shown Retaliation the respect it deserves and the special features include interviews with Jô Shishido who I am fast becoming a fan of and also an interview with renowned critic and historian Tony Rayns.  Fans of the Japanese gangster movies will no doubt love this release and the way the genre was transforming at the time to become grittier.

As I watch more and more of the gangster movies, especially the ones with Jô Shishido I am becoming more and more of a fan, especially when I see the influence that these movies have had on the likes of Takashi Miike a director I have always enjoyed.  Retaliation is one of the best of the classics gangster films I’ve seen so far, and fits perfect with Massacre Gun and the Stray Cat Rock movies which comes as no surprise as they are Yasuharu Hasebe films.  Harsher than Massacre Gun, some may not be impressed with the treatment of the female characters in the film but the actions seen on the screen do have a purpose in the storyline.  Retaliation is one of the classic Japanese gangster movies and a perfect starter point to show just why these movies are so good.

***** 5/5

Retaliation is available on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD in the UK now.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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