FANTASTIC FEST: Last of the Wolves (2021)

Three years after The Blood of WolvesKorô no chi: Level 2 (AKA The Blood of the Wolves 2 and Last of the Wolves) finds Shuichi Hioka taking over after the death of the corrupt Shōgo Ōgami and fulfilled his mentor police officer’s plan: a truce between the various gangs of Hiroshima. Yet when Shigehiro Uebayashi (Ryohei Suzuki, Tokyo Tribe) is released from prison, the Japanese-Korean criminal reunites his old gang with their old mission and reinvents the violence his yakuza brothers were once feared for.

Based on Yuko Yuzuki’s novel, this film — directed by Kazuya Shiraishi and written by Junya Ikegami — recalls the glory days of Japanese gangster cinema. There’s some gorgeous imagery — tattooed bodies in cages, for one — that pushes against the grime, blood and brutality on display here.

Both Hioka and Uebayashi have lost a boss and have something to prove to their fellow officers and gang members. The only questions are ones of moral principles and honor: will Hioka follow the path of Ōgami and accept that he must be tainted by corruption for even a small portion of justice to be delivered, while Uebayashi feels that loyalty must be followed even if it means that he must die.

The old ways and violence of the past are giving way to the politics and business of the future. Yet for these two men, they stand at the crossroads of history. Yet the desire for power and the need for violence forever remain constants.

I haven’t had the opportunity to see much modern Japanese gangster cinema and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I adored this. Near-constant rain, plentiful blood and violence, still photo history moments — it’s stylish and exciting. If you’re looking for something new, you should track this down once it comes to the United States.

Last of the Wolves is currently plating Fantastic Fest and is not otherwise streaming in the U.S. You can learn more about this feature at the official site.

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