Yakuza vs. Triad
January 24, 2008 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Love the two main actors but War just did not do anything for me. Are there any other Yakuza vs. Triad movies out there that are worth watching?
posted by jasonspaceman to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Brother. I think it fits your criteria.
posted by zerobyproxy at 4:53 PM on January 24, 2008

Brother is a really good one, Beat Takeshi has another one I enjoyed called Sonatine that you may enjoy.
posted by nola at 10:17 PM on January 24, 2008

Are you looking for strictly yakuza vs. triad or will yakuza flicks in general do? Sonatine, as far as I can remember, doesn't have any triad. I'm not even sure that Brother does.

As far as yakuza movies go (sans Triad), I like Gonin a lot. It has Beat Takeshi as well, but just as an actor instead of a director.

I don't know if the echoes of midnight cowboy at the end is even intentional or not, but it works very, very well if you pretend it is.

posted by juv3nal at 2:00 AM on January 25, 2008

From the other side of the coin, how about a movie with Triad vs. Cops?

Take a gander at Mou Gaan Dou (Infernal Affairs), hopefully the original Chinese version (with subtitles). It was later remade in Hollywood as "The Departed". Both are good movies which involve the Triads, but I still prefer the original Chinese version. There are sequels as well but I have not seen them.
posted by splice at 3:25 AM on January 25, 2008

Personally, I think that yakuza vs triad films are never done well. I always prefer straight up yakuza films or straight up triad films. I also would not consider WAR as a true yakuza vs triad film - basically because it is an American film and not a Chinese, Japanese, or Japanese/Chinese co-production. WAR is really an FBI vs (triad vs yakuza) film.

Takashi Miike has made several films that throw Japanese and Chinese (and even Korean) gangsters together; including CITY OF LOST SOULS , the SHINJUKU TRIAD SOCIETY (the first film in the Black Triad trilogy), the D.O.A. trilogy, and - best of this bunch - RAINY DOG. If you have never seen a Miike film - these might not be the place to start. He is a really sick and twisted filmmaker (I love a couple of the seventy odd films that he has directed since 1991 - especially the masochistic yakuza film ICHI THE KILLER and the horror film AUDITION). I'll add a brief warning - you might find it hard to believe that Miike's triad/yakuza films were made in the same universe as WAR....

Jasonspaceman, the following is not specifically aimed at you, but I felt like you gave me the opportunity to drool over some of the Asian gangster/crime films that I love:

I would say that triad films are the Chinese equivalent of 30's Warner Bros gangster films such as THE ROARING TWENTIES, SCARFACE, and PUBLIC ENEMY while yakuza films are the Japanese equivalent to the 50's film noir such as KISS ME DEADLY, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, and RIFIFI. That is a bit of a over-simplification, but if you are looking films heavy on action, then I would suggest looking at triad films - many of the best action films made in the past twenty years have been triad films made in China.

Although yakuza films cover similar territory (Japanese crime syndicates) to the triad films (Chinese crime syndicates) - they are completely different in style. Yakuza films are definitely lighter on choreographed action sequences and the action in yakuza films is often much more chaotic and bloody than the bullet ballets of Hong Kong. Yakuza films also approach the territory one would find in a heavily stylized art film - by which I mean many of the best yakuza films ask audiences to be more than just a passive viewer...


Here is a list including what I think is the best of what triad films have to offer:

Johnny To - the director who is the current "King of the Mountain" when it comes to triad films. Two of his most highly regarded triad films are ELECTION and THE MISSION (well this is not quite a triad film, but is pretty good action film).

* * *
Tsui Hark - he makes truly excellent films in Hong Kong (mostly kung fu and wuxia films) , but his American films are Van Damme-aged goods. He made a couple of Kung Fu films with Jet LI that are good (I don't think they compare to Hark's THE BLADE which I think might be the best kung fu film of all time).

I highly recommend watching Hark's TIME AND TIDE. This is one my favorite action films of all time - however, it is not a straight up triad film. It involves an international ring of assassins (based in Brazil and Hong Kong), triad gangsters, and a small-time security agency.

* * *
Ringo Lam is my favorite '80s auteur making triad films and his CITY ON FIRE was "completely ripped off" (or paid hommage to) with Tarantino's RESERVOIR DOGS. There are two sequels to CITY ON FIRE (and one of the sequels has a sequel) that are not as good, but would also suggest checking out FULL CONTACT.

* * *
The INFERNAL AFFAIRS films are also highly regarded - they are shot very well, but personally I can do without them (I also thought that THE DEPARTED was mediocre).

Many people love the work of John Woo - I am not one of them - and his films are mentioned in almost all "best of" lists covering Hong Kong triad films. In fact Woo - along with Ringo Lam - may have been most responsible for the emergence of hyper-violent triad films in the '80s.

Some actors to be on the lookout for in triad films are Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, and Chow Yun Fat.

* * *
* * *

I prefer yakuza films to triad films, mostly because the yakuza films cover a wider range of styles (gritty realism, melodramas, and even a style of surrealism that rivals the work of Buñuel). So the following is a list of where I consider to be the best places to start with yakuza films.

Kinji Fukasaku - is a filmmaker that made a lot gritty yakuza films in the '60s and '70s - most of his "heroes" are obsessed with upholding the yakuza code or they are hell bent on self destruction. My favorite yakuza films by Fukasaku are SYMPATHY FOR THE UNDERDOG (this film is literally a yakuza version of THE WILD BUNCH) and the epic THE BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY series. Fukasaku also made the amazing anti-war dystopian film BATTLE ROYALE.

* * *
Seijun Suzuki - has made some of my favorite yakuza films. He has a very idiosyncratic style that leads to completely surreal moments in his films, and he was eventually fired by his studio (Nikkatsu) for being too unorthodox. As a mild example of this idiosyncracy, in Suzuki's BRANDED TO KILL the hero - Japan's third ranked hitman - get offs on sniffing the steam from cooking rice. I think that prefer YOUTH OF THE BEAST to BRANDED TO KILL - but they are the best of his non-ninkyo eiga yakuza films. As for his ninkyo eiga ("chivalry" films that deal with yakuza in the late 1800's and the period before WWII) TATOOED LIFE and KANTO WANDERER are worth a look...

* * *
As mentioned above, Takeshi Kitano (his acting alias is Beat Takeshi) has made the best yakuza films of the past twenty years. I would describe his films as a middle ground between Fukasaku's realism and Suzuki's surrealism. In addition to the films mentioned above, I would recommend taking a look at FIREWORKS (HANA-BI), BOILING POINT, and VIOLENT COP.

* * *
Takashi Ishii also gets a lot of praise, he directed the above mentioned film GONIN. Alas, I have not seen any of his films yet.

* * *

Some of the actors to look out for in yakuza films are Bunta Sugawara, Jo Shishido (he's the odd looking fellow guy who had cheek implant surgery in the early '60s), Show Aikawa, Ken Takakura, and Sonny Chiba.
posted by cinemafiend at 5:15 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

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