Thursday, July 19, 2018

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! (1963)

Director: Seijun Suzuki
Notable Cast: Jo Shishido, Tamio Kawaji, Reiko Sassamori, Nobuo Kaneko, Kinzo Shin, Naomi Hoshi, Asao Sano, Yuko Kusunoki, Kotoe Hatsui, Hiroshi Hijikata

Despite the almost cult cinema God-like status that he has risen to in the last handful of years, not all Seijun Suzuki films are outstanding works of art perfection. He certainly has moments where he gets there with the pop influence of Tokyo Drifter, the strangeness of Branded to Kill, or the noir tones of Take Aim at the Police Van. Of course, since he was a gun for hire director for Nikkatsu for most of his career, his filmography is going to be slightly hit or miss. For starters, let’s look at the latest Arrow Video Blu Ray release for the hilariously titled, Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!. Now this film already has a fairly enthusiastic following, which is why it’s received multiple home video releases even in the US over the years, but despite some charismatic elements to the film, it’s ultimately a mixed bag of execution. Where some pieces of the film soar, others completely stumble through the end. It leaves the film feeling a bit too uneven to reach the heights of the best of Suzuki’s career, but it still features some charming and fun aspects for fans to enjoy.

What fans of the usual yakuza film from Nikkatsu will notice immediately is that the intention of Detective Bureau 2-3 is more of a comedic tone. This is apparent almost immediately in the colorful and sly tone that Suzuki uses for the opening sequence – which is a sequence of gang on gang violence, but the manner in how it’s shot and way it unfolds gives it an almost comic book like tone. This feeling is carried throughout the rest of the film too even when the film gets darker and more violent. In ways, the comedy can work as Suzuki tries to cake the film in a visual charm that does carry the burden of the approach, but most of the success in the tone can be traced back to Jo Shishido in the lead role as a private investigator that goes undercover with the yakuza. While he never quite fit in with the rest of the Diamond Guys from this era, he showcases why he works so impressively well as a leading man in this film and he is able to balance the showmanship of the era (he even gets a very out of the blue song and dance routine in the second act) with those streaks of darker elements that he would embrace in later Suzuki films. They tend to surround him with a lot of wishy washy secondary characters, most of which are meant to be gag caricatures more than anything else, but he truly shines in this film and Suzuki rightfully uses him to power this film forward.

From there, Detective Bureau 2-3 does adhere to the usual Nikkatsu yakuza tropes in terms of story as our hero, more of an anti-hero in a lot of ways, must attempt to go undercover to find out why there are seemingly three yakuza clans at the brink of war. It hits all of the Nikkatsu blue prints with warring yakuza clans, dance halls, a romantic subplot, and plenty of action – although a good chunk of it is gun fights which is shot with a lot of pizzazz by Suzuki. The script here is generally the biggest issue that holds the film back, from the intentionally silly comedic side characters to the predictable nature of the plotting, but there are moments where it works. There is an intriguing romantic-ish subplot and her character, one that is tied to the yakuza, has a relatively interesting backstory to help add a bit of much needed depth to the film. Unfortunately, it’s too little to make a big difference and only reminds the audience that the rest of the film feels thin, even when it’s going through some of the entertaining action set pieces (including a room filling with oil that’s set on fire at the end.)

Bless the hearts of everyone at Arrow Video for all of the spectacular work they have been doing to bring so many of his films to the markets in glorious Blu Ray and it is easy to see why this film was one to make the cut. It already has a fairly devout cult audience, as mentioned before, and this Blu Ray is going to be a huge addition to everyone’s collection. The new HD is a jump up from the previous DVD release and there’s a fantastic new interview with Tony Rayns that adds a lot of context to the film. It’s not the most stacked release from Arrow, but everything that’s on there is relevant and a nice addition to the film.

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! is not the top echelon of Seijun Suzuki films, thanks to a predictable plot and some tonal frustrations in jamming in some silly comedy, but it is a film that has quite a bit of charm, both visually and from a fantastic lead performance from Shishido. It’s a film that has its fair share of fans and this latest Arrow Video release does it justice. It’s a worthy addition to all collections and even though the film is a mixed bag, it is a very entertaining watch.

  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
  • DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
  • Newly translated optional English subtitles
  • Interview with historian and Japanese cinema expert Tony Rayns
  • Gallery of original production stills
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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