Young Yakuza

"OK"

Young Yakuza Review


I have to admit that Young Yakuza had me fooled. Due to my inability to read Japanese interstitial titles, I assumed I was watching a modern-day verite-style drama of life in the Japanese underworld. It wasn't until midway through that I suddenly realized I was actually watching a documentary and that all these hoodlums were for real! It was quite a shock. Talk about access. How in the world did French director Jean-Pierre Limosin get this kind of entre? As it turns out, he agreed to avoid shooting any activity that might be considered illegal, kind of a painful limitation when you're embedded with the mafia.

Limosin's initial plan was to follow the tale of Naoki, a pimply, overweight, and aimless 20 year old who mopes around the house all day. His mother, who apparently has "friends" who have "friends," is talked into sending him into the Kumagai yakuza clan as an apprentice. He'll learn discipline, respect, and hard work, she is told. She agrees somewhat reluctantly, and in an instant Naoki out the door and not looking back.

His initial meeting with the big boss is odd to say the least. The chief leans back in his chair and expounds nostalgically on a disappearing way of life and tells Naoki that he'll see good things and bad things and he'll learn from all of his experiences.

Unfortunately, we don't get to see the bad things. Instead, we watch the apprenticeship. Naoki gets a gang-approved haircut, tries on his track suit uniform with "Kumagai" emblazoned across the back, ponders getting one of those cool full-body yakuza tattoos, and gets several lessons in the proper way to serve tea to the boss and bow. The gang seems to spend most of its time either bodyguarding the boss or cleaning his office, not exactly the stuff of typical yakuza movies. It's all rather easygoing. In fact, the boss says that anyone can leave his gang at any time as long as he promises never to utter a word about it again. No pinkies will be cut off; that's old-fashioned.

Limosin is thrown for a loop when his Naoki up and disappears. Real life can be unpredictable that way. But rather than abandon the project, Limosin shifts focus to the gang bosses as they go about their humdrum days. You may be curious about what they're up to when the cameras are turned off, but you'll never find out.

Limosin gets credit for gaining the kind of access that every documentarian dreams of, but due in part to circumstances beyond his control, his film fails to be interesting. Once we've heard a few minutes of the boss philosophizing in his circumspect way, we've seen enough. Without Naoki around to complete his bildungsroman tale, there's not much to watch.

Backrub?



Young Yakuza

Facts and Figures

Run time: 90 mins

In Theaters: Friday 18th April 2008

Distributed by: Cinema Epoch

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 30%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 6.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jean-Pierre Limosin

Producer: , Chistian Baute

Starring: Naoki Watanabe as Himself, Chiyozo Ishii as Himself, Hideyuki Ishii as Himself

Also starring:

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