Monday, September 18, 2023

Bad City, on DVD

Kaiko City is a fictional Japanese metropolis, but the way the criminals run the city will look very familiar to residents of Los Angeles and Chicago. Gangs might end up literally running the city if mobbed-up businessman Wataru Gojo wins the mayoral election. A secret task force is determined to take him and his Korean gangster allies down before than can happen in Kensuke Sonomura’s Bad City, which releases tomorrow on DVD.

Ordinarily, we probably wouldn’t mourn for the Sakurada Yakuza clan, but at least they were homegrown and conducted themselves by some sort of code. However, Gojo prompted Korean gangster Kim Seung-gi to take out the Sakuradas, because he thought they had evidence of their collusion with high-ranking government officials. It turns out he was wrong. The proof is still out there, but they still managed to greatly weaken a major rival.

Prosecutor Hirayama’s case against Gojo just collapsed, so he will try a more off-the-books approach with his new double-secret task force. Technically, it will be run by his former protégé from Public Safety, Kaori Koizumi. However, the driving force will be the Eastwood-esque Det. Makoto Torada, a disgraced cop doing time for a murder he did not commit. Supposedly, he killed the son of “Madam,” the figurehead boss of the Korean mafia, whom Kim ought to show more respect towards.

It is always rewarding to see a film about an old guy kicking butt—and brother, is that ever Torada’s specialty. Although he is not superhuman, his cussedness almost counts as a superpower. His withering stare could knock small birds out of the air. The trio of regular cops attached to the task force also compliment him nicely. There is the big, burly Kumamoto (elegantly nicknamed Kuma or “Bear”), Nishizaki (who is a bit squirrely, but has legit martial arts skills), and the naïve rookie Megumi.

Sonomura knows exactly what people want in a throwback Yakuza movie, so he never over-complicates things. There is a fair amount of intrigue and betrayal going on with the opposing gangs, but he makes sure it always boils over into street-fighting at regular intervals. Frankly, the big, blowout gang-wars are amazing sights to behold. They are absolutely brutal and deadly intense, but they are also messy, ugly, and sometimes downright clumsy, which is exactly how street fight look in real life.

Of course, it all starts and ends with Yakuza film veteran Hitoshi Ozawa’s badassery as Torada. He is one tough old bird, but his screen presence still burns brightly. Lily Franky effectively plays against type as the scummy Gojo. Hideto Katsuya is believably cop-like and also quite engaging as Kuma, while Masanori Mimoto and Tak Sakaguchi show off all kinds of moves as Nishizaki and Kim’s chief enforcer.

Bad City
is totally drowning in old school Yakuza atmosphere. This film delivers, over and over again. It shows action-specialty distributors do not need films from China, Russia, or the ethically compromised Hong Kong film industry (which is now largely under the thumb of the CCP), when Japan produces good, honest beatdowns like this. Very highly recommended for fans of Yakuza and martial arts movies, Bad City releases Tuesday (9/19) on DVD and BluRay.