13 April 2018



'Still considered his masterpiece, Suzuki's 1966 crime thriller is also one of the most influential pieces of post-war cinema. Suzuki transforms the yakuza genre into a surreal pop-art James Bond cartoon as directed by a crazed Jean-Luc Godard.
An ice-cool hit-man in a powder-blue suit, Testsu decides he's had enough of killing and wants to go straight. His associates, however, have other plans...
Dazzling visuals, an unforgettable theme tune, lavish sets and violent action- TOKYO DRIFTER is the most original and stylish gangster film ever made.'

So says the blurb on the back of the DVD box. It's right an' all, lol. The film was made by a man whom few people outside Japan would have heard of until the mid-1980s, when some of his works would have come out on video (my God, video!!! How long ago does that seem?).

Later on then, well-known directors like Takeshi Kitano, Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch helped to popularise the films of Seijun Suzuki by saying how much they loved them themselves. That's all it takes, huh? I wonder if I could get any of 'em to read my books? I could use a bit of a boost.

TOKYO DRIFTER is a yakuza crime story in which super-hot Japanese actor Tetsuya Watari plays the lead role. Tetsuya Watari is a guy who came to my attention in 2016 when I reviewed a brilliant series of Japanese yakuza films known as OUTLAW GANGSTER VIP for Cinehouse.

He plays a drop-dead gorgeous hitman in each of these films called Goro the Assassin. Here's a little chunk out of the review I wrote of these films in 2016. I haven't changed a bit as regards the gushing, excitable way I tend to talk about guys to whom I'm attracted, haha. The character of Goro is almost a carbon copy of Tetsuya Watari's character in TOKYO DRIFTER, which is why I'm dredging up this review from the past, lol.

'It's their central character, Goro Fujikawa, that makes the series of films so utterly outstanding. (If I run out of superlatives in a minute, can you please Fed-Ex me some...? Cheers, haha!) He's a Japanese yakuza, or hitman, with a heart of gold beating steadily underneath his tough, handsome exterior.

Yes, naturally I noticed that he was handsome before I registered anything else. I'm female, ain't I? Anyway, he came from poverty and homelessness to become the yakuza's most feared weapon, Goro The Assassin. Yep, that there's his nickname all right.

He's in his late twenties, or at least the actor Tetsuya Watari was in his late twenties when he made the films. He's tall and dark with gorgeous chocolate-brown eyes and he has a fit, muscular body to die for. The scars and cuts and bruises in which he's constantly covered only serve to enhance his devastating attractiveness. Sigh...! Women love scars, haha.

Goro The Assassin always wears a battered old brown leather jacket. Well, mostly he just slings it over his shoulders in a sexy, casual sort of way. And he doesn't wear shoes. He wears white flip-flops that never fall off, even when he's kicking the living snot out of rival gangsters.

That's because he has toe power, see, the amazing power to hold on tightly with your big toe to your flip-flop even whilst in the midst of the most heated battle. They might have come off just once, now I think of it, but that wasn't Goro's fault. The ground was icy so, technically, it was the ground's fault. They were back on his feet again within seconds, though, never fear. Toe power, activate...!

Here's Goro's deal. He's something of a loner (control yourselves, women!) and a drifter and he travels around Japan looking for manual labour like working in a lumber-yard or gravel-quarry to keep himself away from a life of crime.

Sooner or later, however, he meets an old yakuza friend who asks his help in dealing with trouble from a rival yakuza clan. Goro's well-developed sense of loyalty to old friends leads to his agreeing to help out. Then, before he knows it, he's up to his neck in savage, bloodthirsty fighting and finger-chopping-off again. Yep, that's the yakuza way...

All six films follow the same format, by the way, but it never gets old. In each new film, I was always excited to see which old friend Goro would encounter, even in the remotest villages of Japan. He meets a woman in every film as well, naturally. The gorgeous Goro is a real p***y-magnet, if I may be crude as hell for just one moment. Women are drawn to his good looks, but not only that. They feel safe with him. He loves to rescue damsels in distress.

That's kind of Goro's thing. He loves vulnerable, helpless women. The more vulnerable and helpless the better, in fact. Are you pregnant? Sick? Homeless? Terminally ill? Having trouble with family members or the local yakuza? Just call Goro The Assassin on 1800-SAVE-YOU and Bob's your uncle. I'm not kidding, by the way, just in case you think I am. That's how he likes 'em.'

In TOKYO DRIFTER, Tetsuya Watari plays- you guessed it- a kind of loner yakuza hitman called Tetsuya 'Phoenix Tetsu' Hondo, but we might call him Tetsu for short. His yakuza boss has given up the old life of crime and so now Tetsu is going to 'go straight' for a bit and see how that goes.

He gets offered a job by the boss of another crime syndicate but he turns it down. This potential boss joins forces with Tetsu's former boss to kill Tetsu. And why would they do such a mad thing, you might ask? Well, it's so that Tetsu doesn't interfere with a real estate scam they've got going together, see?

The rest of the movie sees Tetsu doing a bang-up job of fighting off various other hitmen hidden amongst Pop-Art-looking set-ups coloured in blocks of red and white. There's more than enough biff-sock-kapow to satisfy any fans of martial arts or Western-style shoot-outs watching and positively loads of guys get killed.

I was personally more interested in Tetsu's relationship with his stunningly beautiful ex-girlfriend, a nightclub singer who obviously is still hopelessly in love with the handsome former yakuza member.

Chiharu is her name and she's played by the woman who partners him two years later in OUTLAW GANGSTER VIP, the gorgeous actress Chieko Matsubaru. Chiharu begs him to allow her to go with him when he leaves, but he says no dice, baby.

He's a lone wolf, a maverick, a drifter, and, if necessary, he can totally whistle the theme song of TOKYO DRIFTER to prove it. Poor Chiharu doesn't stand a chance against such determination on Tetsu's part to walk his own path, forever alone.

In this sense, Tetsu resembles Goro once more. Here's another snatch (what, is that a rude word now, then...?) of my review of OUTLAW GANGSTER VIP that could have been written about Tetsu:

'Every time Goro meets a new woman, he tries to put her off chasing after him because he feels the yakuza life brings only misery and heartache to the wives and girlfriends of yakuza hitmen, but you know what women are like. The more you tell us to bugger off, the more we dig our heels in. And when Goro makes the mistake of saying to potential girlfriends:

'No good can come of loving me...!'

Well, you can practically see the women exploding in an orgasm (there's that word again...!) of undying love and perpetual loyalty to the G-man. Even threats of physical violence- and even occasional acts of violence- won't persuade 'em to beat it.

That's because Goro's innate humanity and good humour, not to mention his sexy-as-hell lopsided little grin, inspires that kind of devotion in everyone he meets, male friends and girlfriends alike.

In his insistence on justice and fair treatment for the little guy (in fairness, no-one in the films even reaches up to his shoulder!) and the way he doles out painful come-uppances to the wrong-doers, he's a bit like a Japanese Robin Hood, or Homer Simpson when he's The Pie-Man. Goro's an unforgettable character, and one I'm glad I was able to meet, if only on screen. Sigh. Why is it only ever on screen that guys like this exist?'

Goro and Tetsu have more in common than just the fact that they're both played by the same actor. Both loners, both hitmen, both trying to go straight but 'just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.'

Both loved to death by beautiful women- the same woman really, in point of fact- but both convinced that they'll bring nothing but misery and trouble to these broads. They've gotta walk their own paths, see? If there was ever one foolproof way to make themselves irresistible to women, they've bloody well found it, anyway.

TOKYO DRIFTER is a fabulous film. Lovers of yakuza movies will dig it to the ends of the earth and back. And it's gotta great theme song. You gotta have a song, lol. A yakuza ain't nuthin' without his song...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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