Directed by Kinji Fukasaku with screenplay by Kazuo Kasahara based on a concept by Norimichi Matsudaira, Naoyuki Sugimoto and Kyo Namura, Yakuza Graveyard is the story of Detective Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari, Graveyard of Honor) and his investigations into the Yamashiro and Nishida organized crime syndicates. He soon learns that his police bosses are just as corrupt as the criminals they face. They may as well be the criminals, as they are working with the Yamashiro.
Kuroiwa becomes close with Nishida executive Iwata (Tatsuo Umemiya) and soon finds himself falling in love with Matsunaga Keiko (Meiko Kaji!), the wife of an imprisoned gang member. Swearing allegiance to a criminal instead of his fellow cops and being in love with a woman used to the wrong side of the law puts Kuroiwa into a downward spiral of gun, blood and crime.
Yet how far from being a criminal is Kuroiwa? He drinks non-stop, sleeps with sex workers, embraces Western rock and roll and punches so many cops in the face. He’s as much of an outcast as the Korean characters in this film, people with a heritage that will never allow them to rise to the levels they may deserve.
How much is this movie on the side of the bad guys? I mean, the cops use Nazi truth serum at one point. Japanese yakuza films are a deep well to explore and this is a great start, all filled with frantic action, moments that transform into monochromatic psychedelia and the idea that a death bleeding out in the dirty street is the best almost any of these characters will get.
The Radiance Flms blue ray of Yakuza Graveyard looks gorgeous and comes with some amazing extras, including an appreciation by filmmaker Kazuya Shiraishi, a visual essay by critic Tom Mes on Meiko Kaji and Kinji Fukasaku’s collaborations, promotional imagery, a trailer, newly translated English subtitles, a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Time Tomorrow, a limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by Mika Ko on the representations of Koreans in the yakuza film and newly translated reprints of a contemporary review and writing by screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara. This is a limited edition of 3000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings. You can get it from MVD.