May 3, 2023

YAKUZA GRAVEYARD and the Badass Mofo

1976 / 96 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

Kuroiwa is one badass mofo. 

A tough cop with a permanent chip on his shoulder, he doesn’t take shit from anybody…not his superiors, his girlfriend or the two yakuza families fighting for control of the territory. He’s also pretty fearless, with no qualms about single handedly putting the hurt on a room full of gangsters or hooking up with a yakuza boss’ wife. The guy makes Dirty Harry look like Barney Fife.

But while Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari) is revealed to be somewhat morally questionable, his bosses are worse. Most in the department are corrupt and in-bed with the Yamashiro family, who are planning to wipe out their competitors, the Nishidas. Disgusted with his own department, Kuroiwa eventually finds himself siding with the Nishidas, even befriending Iwata (Tatsuo Umemiya), the guy in charge since their boss, Sugi, has been sent to prison. 

He also begins a relationship with Sugi’s wife, Keiko (Meiko Kaji), which is pretty ballsy, especially when you consider his other girlfriend is the widow of another yakuza boss he shot and killed a year earlier. Meanwhile, Kuroiwa uses his badassery to not-only take on the Yamashiros, but try and protect Iwata from his own crooked superiors, who didn’t even want him investigating the yakuza in the first place and soon relieve him of duty.

"I ain't no idiot. I wanna see the candy before I get in the van!"
Though the story is a little convoluted at times, Yakuza Graveyard is big, violent fun, with plenty of action and amusingly questionable behavior by its protagonist. Speaking of which, Kuroiwa is a great character and played with tough conviction by Watari. Watching him let his fists do the talking - usually without even removing his sunglasses - is a rousing way to spend 90 minutes. But he isn’t just a thug with a badge. Kuroiwa is more complex than his perpetual scowl and gruff demeanor initially suggest. And even though he falls-in with criminals, his code of ethics remains unchanged. The film makes it clear that being a corrupt cop is far worse.

Respected, influential director Kinji Fukasaku dabbled in a lot of different genres during his decades-long career, but his bread & butter were the yakuza films he made in the 1970s. As some of this disc’s bonus features will attest, he was especially adept at cranking out pulp thrillers and Yakuza Graveyard is a great example. Highly recommended for fans of action flicks with badass mofos.


“OF WOLVES AND MEN” - Interview with Kazuya Shiraishi, a director who was influenced by Kinji Fukasaku, talks about the director’s career making Yukusa films.

“THE RAGE AND THE PASSION” - Video essay by Tom Mes.



SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET - Featuring three essays, as well as cast, crew & restoration credits.

REVERSIBLE COVER - With new & vintage artwork.

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