Gendai yakuza: hito-kiri yota, Street Mobster (1972)
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
Written by: Kinji Fukasaku, Yoshihiro Ishimatsu
Starring: Bunta Sugawara, Keijirô Morozumi, Mayumi Nagisa, Noboru Andô, Nobuo Yana
STREET MOBSTER (1972)
aka Gendai yakuza: hito-kiri yota
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Japanese Language with Subtitles
Okita Isamu, a criminal street punk, finds himself behind bars for taking revenge against a Yakuza clan. On his release from prison, he reassembles his gang to once again commit crimes around the town of Kawasaki. His devil may care attitude catches the attention of veteran gangster Kizaki who encourages Okita and his crew to create tension between the two ruling gangs in the area: Takigawa and Yoto. Attacking Takigawa’s men and fleeing onto Yoto turf works out well for Okita’s gang until they find themselves cornered by Takigawa’s crew. With no-one else to turn to, Kizaki pleads with gang boss Yoto to take their street gang into his clan. A man in charge of his own destiny, Okita refuses to give in and resists joining forces with Yoto but after a life-threatening altercation with Takigawa’s men, he’s left with little choice.
Joining Yoto certainly has its benefits but becoming a legitimate gangster doesn’t sit well with Okita as he yearns for his past life of brawling and taking women. It isn’t long before he starts to slip into his old ways and return to the street mobster he always was, however this time a larger Yakuza outfit are on the scene and his backstreet antics won’t work against their lethal approach.
Kinji Fukasaku’s STREET MOBSTER is an action-packed crime thriller that rarely comes up for air as lead Bunta Sugawara as Okita Isamu gruffly grabs the viewer by the throat and makes them ride shotgun throughout his criminal rise and fall. Okita narrates his rise to the titular street mobster and everything about it screams “I always wanted to be a gangster”. It’s no surprise he ends up as one when when we see and hear about Okita’s rough childhood and upbringing. A true child of the streets with no-one to care for him, self-reliant Okita takes what he wants and apologises to no-one. This includes women on the street who he rapes before selling into brothels. One such woman he ends up meeting again after his release from prison. A prostitute hired to show Okita a good time, she recognises him as the guy who basically kidnapped her as a virgin, raped her and then put her to work as a prostitute, a life she has lived ever since. Despite being furious with her former captor, she ultimately ends up caring for him, as though she’s somehow entranced by the man who stole her innocence.
Outside of the crimes he commits, Okita is a very alluring character. He has spirit and gusto which makes him a fascinating character to watch. He seems to navigate the life he has created for himself incredibly well, albeit not a route many would like to take in life, but it seems to match his headstrong, stubborn personality very well. The way he interacts with the bigger gangs also shows on what type of level he’s on and how his personality and choices differ from those leading a more fruitful career as a gang member. Never one to willingly back down and always punching above his weight, Okita’s full-throttle lifestyle is like a fuse which will eventually burn out and the film documents this incredibly well, leaving you on the edge of your seat throughout the running time.
Despite its age, STREET MOBSTER feels a very fresh and modern film compared to the other Yakuza films of this era and still holds up incredibly well today. Thrilling, dangerous and edgy, this movies is one of the true highlights of the genre.