Graveyard of Honor/Review
From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
August 6, 1924: Rikio Ishikawa is born. Through (What's believed to be) authentic photos and audio interviews, we see and hear Ishikawa's early life being told from relatives and friends. They all said he was head-strong, they all said he wanted to be a yakuza. They all turned out to be right. But what they didn't say was what would happen afterwards.
Tokyo, 1946: A grown Ishikawa (Tetsuya Watari) is a member of the Kawada family and is making his presence felt in a post-war black market. And as the days go by and more Yakuza families start getting in the way, Ishikawa creates chaos. Of course, he tells his boss that he "Did it for the family", but the last thing the Kawada family wants is a borderline-psycho in their ranks. Seeking refuge, Ishikawa is reunited with an old jailhouse pal, Imai (Tatsuo Umemiya) and offers Rikio to join his family. He doesn't provide an answer, but he gives the indication that he'll around with the gang. Around this time, he (Literally) runs into a girl named Chieko (Yumi Takigawa) who will eventually become his girlfriend. Soon after, Ishikawa strikes again. This time wounding a boss of the Shinwa clan at a night club. A family war is now about to break out and Ishikawa is all to blame. Beaten and exiled from his Kawada superior, a drunken Ishikawa later returns to attack his godfather. Though his boss survives, Ishikawa is sent to jail. Upon his release, he re-locates to Osaka and plunges into drug addiction. Seeking more money for his habit, he returns to Tokyo. Though he's now a much-more damaged shell of his old self, Ishikawa is just as barbaric as he ever was and leaves his path of destruction down a much darker road.
Relentless. That's the only word I can use to describe this movie. Though celebrated director Kinji Fukasaku would continue to dish out one hardboiled cop/mobster drama after another in the incoming years, I still haven't seen anything else that matches the brutality of this one. And what's odd is that despite ALL the gunshots, ALL the stabbing, and ALL the explosive moments of rage throughout the entire movie, the bodycount for this movie is under five. And it's been said that the greatest movies leave the viewer blind to what they have really seen. GRAVEYARD OF HONOR proves that theory correct. Though Fukasaku's craftsmanship was a key ingredient on making this the classic that it is, in a perfect world, Tetsuya Watari should have been awarded or nominated for his performance. Though it's easy to pick out the sequences when he braces for an attack, for my money, the strongest moments come from the scenes when he's alone with Chieko, his girlfriend. There is virtually no dialogue between the two. It's all done through a mostly silent bond. And you don't ever doubt for a second that these two don't have feelings for each other. Plus, even though the pace slows down considerably towards the end once a damaged and ravaged Ishikawa pays respect to the Kawada house and a certain graveyard, the emotions on Watari's face and body language says it all and it's something that could never be repeated.
And although filmmaking devices and (Post-war) attitudes have changed in Japan's cinematic history, Fukasaku's GRAVEYARD OF HONOR still stands as a work of fury that shakes the soul.
Reviewed by Laydback