Battles Without Honor & Humanity


"Forget Godfather, Forget Goodfellas, Forget Once Upon a Time Anywhere."

- slaXor

Battles Without Honor & Humanity (1973)

AKA: Battles Without Honour & Humanity: The Yakuza Papers

Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Tatsuo Umemiya, Tsunehiko Watase, Nobuo Kaneko, Goro Ibuki, Tamio Kawaji, Eiko Nakamura, Hiroshi Nawa, Kunie Tanaka

Running Time: 99 min.

Plot: Voted "Best Film Of The Year", this nihilistic chronicle of gang wars that ravaged Hiroshima in post-war Japan centers around the character Sugawara, and was based on the prison diary of a yakuza member involved in the wars.

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SLAXOR'S REVIEW: Forget Godfather, Forget Goodfellas, Forget Once Upon a Time Anywhere. This is it. The end all, be all of gangster movies.

Most have never heard of Fukasaku the man who did a little movie called Battle Royale that only a few people ever have seen and said was decent. ;)

Sarcasm aside long before Mr. Fukasaku pretty much blew everyone away with Battle Royale he was considered the man who made some of the best Yakuza based movies of all time. His Citizen Kane of these films was the Battles Without Honor & Humanity series centered around post-war Japan just after the bombings.

The movie literally opens up with about 10-15 freeze frame title card introductions to the characters which you will only catch about half of as they wiz by while the movie gets underway. This however is not a problem as you will become familiar with the characters afterwards as they talk to each other and constantly refer to each other by name. Besides you'll probably be as engrossed as I was by the violence taking place which includes people getting arms lopped off and a hell of a lot of people getting shot of course.

That in particular is one of the great things about Battles and that is the pacing. Never do the characters sit around for too long and never does the action and excitement go on so long that you just get tired of it.

Thee ultimate best though has to be the characters. Throughout the series new characters will be introduced as old ones are killed. "Sakai" is probably my favorite non-Bunta character in the whole series. Other characters are introduced throughout like "Takeda" and "Matsunaga" that are genuinely cool characters. Then their are ones like "Boss Yamamori" and "Makihara" that will literally have you eagerly wanting to watch each following sequel to see if they ever get their just desserts.

Then of course their is the central star of all the films Bunta Sugawara playing the character of Hirono who is an ex-soldier turned yakuza. My first exposure to him as an actor was in another Fukasaku film called Street Mobster in which I thought he hammed it up to Riki Takeuchi BR2 levels. None of that in the Battles series though. Bunta's character "Hirono" is on a level of coolness with Deniro's "Jimmy Conway" from Goodfellas. Throughout the films other actors will crop up to add their star power to the series some of whom include Sonny Chiba (Kill Bill), Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood) and Jo Shishido (Branded to Kill) just to name a few.

If I had to think of anything that could be considered bad in the series or something people generally wouldn't like it would be the filming of a lot of the action. Fukasaku preferred an in-your-face approach to the action and was one of the first directors to take the camera off the tripod in his native Japan. A lot of Japanese movies to this day are shot with a lot of long takes that make artsy fartsy festival goers warm in the pants.

Overall the action doesn't bother me so I cannot find any problems with the movies myself other then the fact I can never find the time to watch all five in a row! Because once you start you'll wanna watch them one after another to see where the story finally takes you. Then there's 3 more made afterwards so 8 in total!