Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell Bastards!, Kutabare akutô-domo - Tantei jimusho 23 (1963)
Directed by: Seijun Suzuki
Written by: Haruhiko Ôyabu, Iwao Yamazaki
Starring: Jô Shishido, Reiko Sassamori, Tamio Kawaji
DETECTIVE BUREAU 2-3: GO TO HELL BASTARDS! (1963)
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
Japanese Language with English Subtitles
The Yakuza aren’t happy. The gang war between the Sakura and Otsuki clans is interrupted by a new gang in town who isn’t afraid of taking out both clans and hitting them where it hurts: by stealing their goods. When Manabe, a suspected member of the new gang, is arrested and questioned by police, the opposing Yakuza factions join forces in attempt to take him down upon his release. Realising he is their most precious asset and they need to keep him alive, the police task local private detective Hideo Tajima to tail Manabe and find out the truth about the new gang in town, that’s if he can keep the gang member alive long enough. With his new identity of Tanaka Ichiro, Tajima must gain the trust of Manabe’s boss Hatano and infiltrate their clan to expose their crimes.
Set in the hip 60’s amidst a backdrop of jazz-infused saxophone and trumpet numbers that wouldn’t seem amiss out of a 60’s episode of Batman, DETECTIVE BUREAU 2-3: GO TO HELL BASTARDS! is a fun, thrilling and relentless crime drama that hardly ever comes up for air. Having seen a few of these Yakuza films, particular those by director Seijun Suzuki, this particular movie is a lot more fun in tone with star Jo Shishido, one of the original Diamond Guys, even taking to the floor for a dance and musical number! Makes a change from his scowling persona in the Gangster VIP series. In this particularly outing, we see Shishido’s smart detective Tajima take on the no-nonsense, ruthless Yakuza as he vacates his life as a P.I. to infiltrate and become a Yakuza member long enough to gain evidence of their criminal activities.
As his uncover role of Tanaka, Tajima preys on the naivety of captured member Manabe and uses him as his opening into the new Yakuza clan that have drifted into town. However, the rest of the gang are pretty clued up and don’t take new members on face value. Keen to dig into his background, gang boss Hatano and his men investigate his story and find that Tanaka is fresh out of prison and home address is a church! Having to prove his links to the church and validate his Tanaka identity, Tajima is forced to visit the church where his “father” is a Catholic priest. This particular segment of the film had me squirming in anticipation of Tajima’s story falling apart as elements of improvisation come into play for the character. The way in which the scenes are executed is quite clever as we, the audience, know just as much as Tajima as he tiptoes through the interaction with his God-loving “father” whilst the mob boss watches from the distance, questioning the incoming congregation on the legitimacy of the church’s priest. This is definitely one of those “hold-your-breath” moments that you get in mobster movies where the spy’s cover could be blown at any moment and chaos is only just round the corner.
No good crime film is without a damsel in distress and, in this particular offering, not only is the damsel Chiaki engaged to the mob boss, but she’s also a virgin with the mobster impotent and unable to fulfill his or her sexual desires. For Chiaki, this is probably a good thing as she doesn’t seem that keen to be trapped with Hatano, powerful as he may be. When she suspects Tanaka may not be who he says he is, Chiaki spies her chance of a way out of her miserable existence. As a character, she seems innocent enough but you can never quite tell if she’s playing Tajima or whether she genuinely wants help from him. When Tajima, posing as Tanaka, gets reacquainted with his former flame in a club, it’s almost impossible to ignore the green eyed monster that Chiaki transforms into as she appears jealous of his feelings for Sally. For a mobster film, this has more drama, thrills and excitement than I could have anticipated, dealing with what appear to be minuscule issues but ones that could easily blow the entire operation.
Set in a bustling yet murky city, DETECTIVE BUREAU 2-3: GO TO HELL BASTARDS! is certainly a film that doesn’t sleep on the job, preferring to keep you entertained with its soap-opera-esque relationships and cunning plans to outfox the corrupted. This was no doubt a breath of fresh air for Yakuza film fans at the time and still holds up to this very day. Charming and charismatic, Shishido steals the show as he so often does by giving us a likable character we can root for. A thoroughly enjoyable piece of cinema.
Arrow Video’s release in a wonderful transfer with 2.0 audio and an interview with historian and Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns.