Synopsis: Harry Kilmer returns to Japan after several years in order to rescue his friend George’s kidnapped daughter – and ends up on the wrong side of the Yakuza, the notorious Japanese mafia…

Review: Retired private eye Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) is summoned to Japan at the behest of his friend Tanner (Brian Keith), who is a gunrunner and oily businessman. Tanner’s daughter was kidnapped by the Yakuza over a business dispute, and Tanner hopes that Kilmer’s connections to the Yakuza from when he lived in Japan during the war will help him rescue his daughter. Kilmer’s first order of business is to visit an old flame, whose brother Tanaka Ken (Takakura Ken) left the Yakuza to live a peaceful life. As Tanaka owes Kilmer a debt, he goes along with Kilmer to rescue the girl, but in the process they kill a number of Yakuza gangsters, which incites the wrath of a Yakuza boss, who sends an army of assassins to kill them both. Having no choice but to fight back and tie up loose ends, Kilmer and Tanaka go up the Yakuza food chain and end the conflict once and for all.

A very mature and exciting dramatic action film from director Sydney Pollack, The Yakuza is an incredibly well made and developed motion picture with a great script by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne. Interesting, well-written characters and tight, kinetic action scenes keep the story moving. Before Hollywood was really very interested in Japanese culture, this film was way ahead of the curve.

Warner Archives recently released a nice looking on demand “Archive Collection” blu ray of The Yakuza. Previously released in a slim case edition that was packaged as part of a Robert Mitchum DVD set, this film can now be enjoyed on its own in high definition. Special features on the disc include a ported-over audio commentary by Pollack, and a vintage featurette called ‘Promises to Keep.”


About the Author

david j. moore

david j. moore is the author of World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies and the upcoming book The Good, the Tough and the Deadly: Action Movies and Stars, coming April, 2016 from Schiffer Publishing.