Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 21, 2018 6:25 pm 
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SHIRAISHI KAZUYA: THE BLOOD OF WOLVES (2018) - NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL

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TORI MATSUZAKA AND KÔJI YAKUSHO IN THE BLOOD OF WOLVES

An old genre reappears

"The yakuza movie used to bestride the Japanese film industry like a colossus," wrote Max Cchilling of The Japan Times," but now clings to its margins." Perhaps it should stay there. Of course diehards sometimes take a crack at the genre again, Schilling notes, Like Takeshi Kitano with Outrage Coda "but a true revival has yet to come." Kitano has done more interesting such films already, even if one watches them in vain for hints of deeper meaning that isn't really there.

The Blood of Wolves features a sleazy bent cop, Shogo Ogami, played by Kôji Yukusho, who is accompanied by a new rookie partner, a recent Hiroshima University graduate called Shūichi Hioka (Tori Matsuzaka), a pretty boy type who holds back his jujitsu skills and also the fact that he's from Internal Affairs and sent to lay bare Ogami's corruption - and get hold of his diary, packed with insider information. Hioka's relation to Ogami is interesting at times, as it swings passionately between shock and admiration. Yukusho and Matsuzaka both have juicy roles, and make the most of them.

There is plenty of violence, right off the bat, including a castration, a clipped off finger, victims fed pig offal, a severed head in a urinal, and the like. The two cops are getting in the way between two rival gangs - Kakomura-gumi and the Odani-gumi - you know the drill. It's slickly done, and there are occasional surprises, particularly coming from a young female pharmacist. There is also an occasional austere-sounding voiceover.

Shiraishi Kazuya's The Blood of Wolves is "more of a homage than a revamp," suggested Schilling. It is a cop thriller based on Yuko Yuzuki's novel, but the director has acknowledged his greater model is Kinji Fukasaku's Battles Without Honor and Humanity, a five-part 1973-74 series. "It would be interesting," [url="http://filmalert101.blogspot.com/2018/06/sydney-film-festival-barrie-pattison.html"]Film Alert 101[/url] speculates, "to know just how [The Blood of Wolves] made its way into the festival circuit." Maybe to remind us how the non-festival circuit world lives? Really Blood of Wolves, for all its genre thrills, is far too familiar, and too long. But still, at times, it's pretty great, too.

The Blood of Wolves / 孤狼の血 (Korô no chi, "Blood of solitary wolf"), 126 mins., debuted at Udine Far East Festival 24 Apr. 2018, opening in Japan 12 May. It showed in the Nippon Connection festival in German in May and at Sidney in June. It was screened for this review as part of the NYAFF at Lincoln Center where it shows July 2 at 9:15 pm.

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