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Yakuza Wolf 1 & 2 (Blu-ray Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000225378
Added by: Jitendar Canth
Added on: 4/5/2024 18:03
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    Review for Yakuza Wolf 1 & 2

    6 / 10


    I always approach unsolicited discs with healthy trepidation. I usually receive them on the strength of titles I have reviewed previously, whether it comes to genre or origin. But there is usually a reason why I haven’t requested them; there’s something about them that didn’t appeal to me at first glance, or a sense that I’ve indulged as far as I wish with a particular genre. Yet it’s always a joy when an unsolicited disc pleasantly surprises me. I certainly got that joy a few weeks ago when I reviewed the Samurai Wolf films. Unfortunately, the only thing Samurai Wolf has common with Yakuza Wolf is the Wolf in the title, and both being inspired by Spaghetti Westerns. However, the Yakuza Wolf movies do feature cult favourite movie star, Sonny Chiba.

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    Introduction: Yakuza Wolf – I Perform Murder

    A couple of dead yakuza alert the local gangs. Five years previously, the Himura group was violently slaughtered in a gang war, and they think the dregs of the Himura are belatedly looking for revenge. But actually Gosuke Himura is in town, and he’s looking for revenge on an epic scale, aiming to avenge his father who had led the group. He’s relentless about it, but smart in playing two rival Yakuza groups against each other. What he isn’t expecting is to learn that his sister is still alive.

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    The Disc: Yakuza Wolf – I Perform Murder

    The first Yakuza Wolf movie gets a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer, with PCM 2.0 Mono Japanese audio and optional English subtitles. These films have been restored for this release, and they are certainly clear and sharp, with rich consistent colours. Detail levels are good, and contrast is solid. The image is also clear and sharp, with no sign of age or damage. However there is a slow flicker in some scenes. The audio is fine, mono as you’d expect, but with no distortion or tinniness to worry about. The dialogue is clear, the action comes across with impact, and the subtitles are accurately timed and are free of typos.

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    Extras: Yakuza Wolf – I Perform Murder

    The disc boots to a static menu, where you’ll find the following extras...

    Audio commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema
    Lone Wolves: Yojimbo, Django and Yakuza Wolf (23:47)
    Theatrical Trailer (2:35)

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    Conclusion: Yakuza Wolf – I Perform Murder

    In the audio commentary, it’s mentioned that Yakuza Wolf is similar in many ways to Golgo 13, and that may go some way to explaining why this film didn’t appeal to me. I’m not a fan of Golgo 13, and indeed there are plenty of commonalities between that character and the protagonist of this film, Gosuke Himura. He too has two states of being, he either wants to kill, or he wants to have sex. That’s it, that’s as far as character development goes in this film. He may be conflicted briefly when he learns that his sister is still alive, but it isn’t long before he returns to his basic mission statement.
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    That’s the film in a nutshell, Gosuke’s mission of vengeance, and a whole lot of yakuza for him to kill. There are a plethora of targets for him to choose from, and for a sub-90 minute feature, they all get a decent share of character development. There are two yakuza gangs that he pits against each other, Yojimbo style, and you can throw in a dirty cop for good measure. And when he needs a break from all of the violence, there’s a prostitute he can turn to, to distract him for a few minutes.

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    Stone-faced vigilantes don’t appeal to me. I was never a fan of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish movies. But Yakuza Wolf at least has oodles of style to it. It wears its Spaghetti Western influences on its sleeve, not least in the imaginative cinematography, but also in the music and the production design. Gosuke should stand out like a fish on a bicycle, with his long coat, stubbly beard, and cowboy hat in urban Japan, but it works in the context of the story. There’s not a lot of substance to Yakuza Wolf, but it makes up for it in stylish sex and violence. It’s not my cup of tea, but your mileage may vary, as they say.


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    Introduction: Yakuza Wolf 2: Extend My Condolences

    Ibuki’s got a good thing going as an arms dealer, a middleman between foreign suppliers and the local yakuza. But he’s behind the times; the gangs are changing and taking control. He’s double-crossed by a scarred man named Semba; his partner is killed in the resulting shootout, and he’s arrested by a crooked cop named Kembe.

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    Five years later, Ibuki’s released from prison with revenge on his mind. Only he doesn’t know that Semba was triple-crossed in turn, and now Ibuki will have to go directly after the yakuza to get the money he’s owed. But Kembe’s left the police and works directly for the gang, and they’re expecting Ibuki and are ready for him.

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    The Disc: Yakuza Wolf 2: Extend My Condolences

    Much like the first film, Yakuza Wolf 2 has a sympathetic restoration on this disc. The 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer is clear and sharp, with consistent colours. Detail levels are good, contrast is strong, and there is an organic level of film grain. The film shows its age though in the look of the palette, the occasional softness, and as in the first film occasional flicker. The audio comes in PCM 2.0 Mono Japanese form with optional English subtitles and is just what you’d hope for; clear, resonant and with no distortion or tinniness. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos.

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    Extras: Yakuza Wolf 2: Extend My Condolences

    The disc boots to a static menu, and the sole extras are the theatrical trailer (2:45), and an audio commentary with Mike Leeder & Arne Venema.

    I haven’t seen the physical extras or packaging that come with this release.

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    Conclusion: Yakuza Wolf 2: Extend My Condolences

    What a change up! The only thing the two films have in common is the name, and while they both have Sonny Chiba starring as men on missions of revenge, tonally and stylistically the films couldn’t be more different. Gone is the Spaghetti Western influence, and Extend My Condolences opts for something more frivolous, more light. It then gets dark and gory, and then gets light again, occasionally silly and daft, momentarily sexy, getting utterly tragic, before ending with the kind of group laugh the original Star Trek series characters would have on the bridge following an episode where countless redshirts had just died.

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    Tonally, Extend My Condolences is all over the place, but the characters are so likeable, the pace so energetic (it crams its story into 85 minutes), that it’s hard to hold its wayward tendencies against it. Sonny Chiba is a lot more animated in this film, a likeable chancer who you wind up rooting for, even though it’s clear that he’s always one step behind. He doesn’t know that the gang structure has suddenly changed, which is when he’s betrayed and arrested. He makes a friend in prison, engages in some comedy hi-jinks, and they wind up released unexpectedly for good behaviour. And given that he was cheated out of a whole lot of money, his revenge seems lucrative enough for his new friend to join in.

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    However, the man who arrested him, though he’s now with the yakuza still has contacts in the police that let them know of the release, and it’s only through blind luck that they dodge an assassin’s bullet. The ex-cop has also gotten hold of Ibuki’s girlfriend Mari, and uses her to set a trap. Ibuki’s intent on getting revenge on Semba, but doesn’t know that he was already taken out by the yakuza in a further betrayal. They realise that two people aren’t enough to deal with the gang, so they try to recruit more, but they don’t exactly find the cream of the crop, and so on and so forth.

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    I found Yakuza Wolf 2 a lot more enjoyable. Having an actual character leading the film instead of a dour cipher holds the attention a lot more effectively, and the shifts in tone also keep the viewer on their toes. It’s not the greatest of films, and it could be argued that the first Yakuza Wolf is a lot more stylish. But I had fun with this second film where I was drifting away watching the first.


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    In Summary

    You’d expect presentations like this, two films in one collection and ostensibly sequels, to all offer a rather singular experience, with two similar films, giving much of a sameness. But here you can’t get two more different films than Yakuza Wolf 1 and Yakuza Wolf 2. If you want Spaghetti Western style moodiness, with a fair bit of Death Wish thrown in, there’s I Perform Murder, but if you want something a lot goofier, you can enjoy Extend My Condolences. Eureka Entertainment give the films the treatment they deserve on Blu-ray, although on disc extras are a little light compared to other back catalogue films from the East.

    The Yakuza Wolf films are available direct from Eureka, from Terracotta, and from mainstream retailers.

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