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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Street Mobster
Street Mobster
Home Vision Entertainment // Unrated // September 7, 2004
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by David Walker | posted September 6, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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The Film:
If you're anything like me, the current state of contemporary cinema has left you pretty cynical. Don't get me wrong, there are some great films being made these days, but for the most part a vast majority of the movies that come out suck. And don't get me started on the filmmakers themselves. People actually talk about third-rate hacks like McG and Brett Ratner as if they've shown enough talent to warrant anyone even knowing their names. I'm afraid the whole thing is a sad state of affairs that can leave the most die-hard film fanatic looking for a book to read.

But every now and then something comes along that reinvigorates your appreciation of film, and gets you as excited as you used to be when you first fell in love with motion pictures. For me, that feeling came several years ago when I first "discovered" Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku. I had already seen his cult classic Black Lizardand the American produced Green Slime, but was completely unaware of Fukasaku when I caught a touring retrospective of his work. For me – someone who sees hundreds of films a year – watching the work of Fukasaku was like discovering films for the first time. I was an instant convert, watching as many films as I could, and studying his bold filmmaking style. But the problem was that a vast majority of films were either completely unavailable in the U.S. on home video, or could only be seen on DVD-R with crappy picture quality. That sad state of affairs, however, is about to change.

Street Mobsterwas the first film to open my eyes to the work of Kinji Fukasaku. Moving at a hyper pace that seldom slows down, Street Mobsteris a raw, depraved and brutally relentless bloodbath. The incomparable Bunta Sugawara stars as Isamu Okita, psychotic street thug born on the day Japan surrendered World War II. After getting out of prison, Isamu forms his own gang of punks, and goes to battle against the yakuza, who he despises. But when Isamu and his boys take things too far, he is forced to become allies with one yakuza clan, in order to keep from being killed by another. Yakuza boss Yato (Noboru Ando) hopes that by having Isamu and his gang under his command, he can control and harness their violent outbursts. The problem is, Isamu is a nihilistic madman who cannot and will not be controlled. The result is one of the most violent gangster films of all time, which makes Scarfacelook like Disney fare.

Street Mobsteris actually the sixth and final installment in the popular Gendai Yakuz (a.k.a. Modern Yakuza) series that starred Sugawara. It was the only film in the series to be directed by Fukasaku, and marked the first real collaboration between the director and Sugawara. More important, Street Mobsterhelped to usher in a new era in yakuza films. Before this film, Japanese gangster movies were more often than not about glamorized, often-chivalrous anti-heroes. But Fukasaku changed all of that, opening the door for a new, ultra-violent breed of yakuza films, of which he is considered one of the best directors.

Revered in Japan – and deservedly so – as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Kinji Fukasaku has demonstrated over the years an incredible versatility as a filmmaker, from the quiet beauty of Geisha House to the depraved violence of Battle Royale. His unique vision can be traced all the way back to his early films of the 1960s, but 1972's Street Mobsteris easily one of his best films. Shot primarily hand-held, with tons of zooming in and out, and often break-neck editing, this is Fukasaku's signature piece in terms of kinetic energy and nihilistic theme.

Video:
For years, if you wanted to see a Kinji Fukasaku film you had to either get a poor quality bootleg, buy a European or Japanese imported disc (and an accompanying player), or hope a touring retrospective would come to your town. Taking those factors into consideration, it's really enough that someone was good enough to simply release Street Mobster(as well as several other upcoming titles) on DVD. The fact that this new digital transfer is so beautiful and immaculate only gives even more reason to rejoice. The 2.35:1 picture (enhanced for 16:9 televisions) quality is amazing. The colors a bright and vibrant, the image is crisp and clean. Even if you could ask for better picture quality than this, you couldn't get it.

Audio:
Street Mobsterhas 2.0 Monaural sound. Not necessarily a disc designed for its sound quality, it is worth noting that the mix is great, if for no other reason than the musical score can be heard. The version of Street Mobsterthat I originally saw had terrible sound, with a muddled mix of dialog and music. The disc, however, has a clear distinction, making it easier to hear the wonderful score that's reminiscent of Ennio Morricone's work on the spaghetti westerns of the 1960s. The dialog is in Japanese, with optional English subtitles.

Extras:
Aside from several trailers of more Kinji Fukasaku films coming from Home Vision Entertainment, Street Mobsteris shy when it comes to extras. There is a brief, and rather boring interview with a former yakuza-turned-filmmaker, who keeps his back to the camera to hide his identity.


David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]
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