From The Director Of Battle Royale And The Yakuza Papers. One of maverick Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku's (Battle Royale, Cops vs. Thugs) "darkest thug-operas" (Village Voice), Yakuza Graveyard is a gritty, brutally violent action film, a mature, poetic achievement in personal filmmaking, and a trenchant x-ray of xenophobic post-war Japanese society. Tormented by guilt and embroiled in a literal dead-end affair with a woman he widowed in the line of duty, renegade Detective Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari -- Tokyo Drifter) is the one-man definition of "rogue cop." When his corrupt superiors assign Kuroiwa to the organized crime beat, they inadvertently pull the pin on a gun-toting human hand-grenade. Violating his "hands-off" orders, Kuroiwa plunges fists first into the Nishida gang yakuza underworld. And when he meets Keiko (70s Japanese action film icon Meiko Kaji -- Lady Snowblood, Female Prisoner Scorpion), the beautiful half-Korean wife of an imprisoned Nishida boss, Kuroiwa finds himself risking much more than just his badge. Outlaw cop and gang-moll become both lovers and unwitting pawns in a brazen, police-sanctioned yakuza power-grab conspiracy. As Kuroiwa is forced to choose a side, the stage is set for betrayal, degradation and massacre. A story of personal depravity, national racism, and romantic self-sacrifice, Yakuza Graveyard takes its place alongside Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses and Shohei Imamura's Vengeance Is Mine as one of the handful of spectacularly graphic and accomplished downward spiral films of 70s Japanese cinema. Kino makes this unjustly overlooked masterpiece available for the first time on US DVD.
Following Cops Vs. Thugs by a year, Kinji Fukasaku’s Yakuza Graveyard is even more violent and colorful, featuring several scenes that Quentin Tarantino obviously borrowed from for Kill Bill. With a similar nearly-humorous soap opera-like plot, Tarantino also adopted filmic storytelling devices used in this film, namely the freeze-frames on characters during plot summaries, and the switch to black-and-white during scenes that occurred in the past. Opening with a scene in which Nishida gang members beat up casino guests, shoot a man in a baseball stadium, then get severely abused by cops, Yakuza Graveyard continues at a ferocious pace, as the Nishida and Yamashiro families fight to take over the city. Police are inept, minus Kido Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari), a Dirty Harry-like detective who falls in love with Nishida member, Mrs. Keiko (Meijo Kaji). Kuroiwa swears brotherhood with Nishida Boss Iwata (Seizo Fukumoto), allowing him to be with Keiko, but ruining his career as a cop. As Kuroiwa’s rough bravado blurs the line between the lawmakers and the lawbreakers, the cops and the yakuza start to look equally corrupt. With his trademark use of the handheld camera during battle scenes, Fukasaku’s shots in Yakuza Graveyard are woozier, often capturing sex and violence completely sideways on the screen. Every character seems to be carrying a bottle of whisky, giving the film itself a drunk and disorderly quality. Crime doesn’t pay though it certainly looks good on a screen. --Trinie Dalton