December 12, 2004
Like the old saying goes, those who live by the sword die by the sword; so do the gangsters who populate Yasuharu Hasebe’s Bloody Territories (1969). It is one of those colourful Japanese gangster (a.k.a. Yakuza) films where the plot revolves around turf wars, fast and brutal action sequences are plentiful, and hep, lounge music (by Sou Kaburagi) constantly plays on the soundtrack. Yasuharu Hasebe’s film sits somewhere between Seijun Suzuki’s gonzo Yakuza movies and Kinji Fukasaku’s bloody crime films obsessed with honour and loyalty.
As a result of tough police crackdowns, various Yakuza clans sign a peace treaty to disband. However, one gang, the Onogi clan, refuses to sign on the dotted line. The clan’s leader reasons that their presence actually maintains the peace because they get rid of any outsiders that threaten to move in on their territory. At the same time, mischievous young punks have been causing trouble in the Onogi’s territory. After catching one of the delinquents they find out that he’s actually a Yakuza. He takes them to his leader, the mysterious Mr. Jinno, who has ties with the powerful Kansai Association, the largest crime organization in western Japan. Now that all of these other clans have disbanded, the Kansai want to move in and take over. Standing in their way is the lone Onogi clan who refuse to back down.
Yuji (Kobayashi), the efficient right-hand man for the Onogi clan, proves right up front that he’s one tough customer. One scene has him commit a ritual called Yubizume. When a mistake has been made, the offender cuts off the joint of his little finger, wraps it up and then offers it to the offended party. Hasebe uses hellish red filter that saturates this scene, giving it a frightening intensity. This is reinforced by Akira Kobayashi’s emotionless, yet determined look on his face. He gives an energetic performance mixed with just the right amount of intensity and charisma.
Bloody Territories is riddled with betrayals and double-crosses as rival Yakuza gangs fight over the Onogi’s territory. It’s a vicious circle as one side is takes a hit and then swears revenge on the other and so on. This goes back and forth until an exciting showdown where Yuji goes after the Kansai clan to settle the score once and for all.
There is a selected filmography for director Yasuharu Hasebe and a vintage theatrical trailer for the movie.
Fans of Japanese gangster movies will no doubt dig Bloody Territories. It is rather straightforward in its presentation—which helps one keep track of who everyone is and what they are doing. In this respect, it resembles the crime films of Don Siegel (in particular, The Killers) and Sam Fuller (Underworld U.S.A.).