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Ghost Canyon

'Street Mobster: Special Edition'
(Bunta Sugawara, Noboru Andô, Mayumi Nagisa, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1972) 2018 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: A pivotal work in the yakuza movie genre and in the career of director Kinji Fukasaku ('Battle Royale,' 'Doberman Cop'), 'Street Mobster' presents an abrasive portrait of the rise and fall of a reckless street punk caught in the crossfire of a bloody turf war raging in the mean streets of Kawazaki.

Blu-ray Verdict: 'Street Mobster' is part of the early '70s crop of Japanese yakuza films that were spearheaded by Kinji Fukasaku, who is once again behind the helm without missing a beat.

All the mandatory elements that make a yakuza film work are present: forming and switching of alliances between yakuza families, fistfights, stabbings, a guerilla view of Tokyo, frenetic action sequences, sleaze.

But whereas a lesser, more workmanlike director would work these things from a checklist, Fukasaku instills so much energy that even the most rudimentary of things are a pleasure to watch.

Indeed 'Street Mobster' is packed full of raw, animalistic energy that more than makes up for the fairly predictable nature of the story. In typical yakuza fashion, yakuza gets out of prison after doing time for a hit, forms a small gang, takes on the bigger families, carnage ensues. It's all part of what makes the genre such pure, unadulterated fun though.

However all these typical genre staples take a wildly exhilarating life of their own through Fukasaku's hyperkinetic and gritty style. There's no glamour or glory to be found in Fukasaku's violence: only brutality. Stylization is kept to a bare minimum with lots of hand-held shots and cameras constantly on the move that blend in with the action.

The same guerilla tactics are used for the exterior shots that capture the seedy, downtrodden side of a Tokyo full of possibilities. Dilapidated warehouses, cheap bath houses, dark rooms, dim-lit diners, rundown neighborhoods with wooden cabins, again there's no glitz or neon lights shining in Fukasaku's yakuza universe.

Regular collaborator Bunta Sugawara takes on the role of the titular Street Mobster, but gone is his cool (and sullen) demeanor from other yakuza films. He's responsible for some serious scenery consumption, wildly overacting, often approaching even Kikuchiyo territory (Mifune's character from Seven Samurai) but with the same honest, natural approach that made him the great actor that he was.

He's also one of the best physical actors I've seen and you can see it paying off in dividends with every fight scene he gets involved with (and there are lots, don't worry).

If you'd like to see a different kind of gangster film, one that relies more on viscera, grittiness and raw energy than faux glamour and hip mafiosos, you should definitely invest in Street Mobster. It's pulpy, fast-paced, balls-out '70s Japanese action cinema at its manic finest! This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
Original uncompressed PCM mono audio
Optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes
Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jasper Sharp