Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! (Review)
Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!
aka 探偵事務所２３ くたばれ悪党ども aka Tantei Jimusho 23: Kutabare Akutodomo aka Detective Bureau 23: Down with the Wicked
Screenplay by Gan Yamazaki (as Iwao Yamazaki)
Based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu
Directed by Seijun Suzuki
Detective Bureau 2-3 is a light-hearted action film, filled with plenty of comedy bits and trucks full of yakuza running around like video game mobs. This is before Seijun Suzuki went full fever dream, but he does have fun sending up the not very original undercover plot and having plenty of side action and goofs to fill the running time. At times it feels like a Keystone cops vs Keystone yakuza film, as trucks full of gang members armed with random blunt objects drive around in circles chasing after their prey, and dozens of cops run around and try to arrest them all. That’s just flavor for the Joe Shishido being a hero plot, but the trucks full of yakuza (and the musical numbers) are far more memorable than the central story.
The goofiness sort of works against the serious parts, we open with a Pepsi truck ambushing a weapons deal, Sakura and Otsuki gang members are massacred by the armed thugs riding the truck, and some poor Pepsi gets spilled when bottles are shot during the firefight. I guess those bottles won’t be getting the nickel refund! Was there a refund for glass bottles in Japan? The scene seems ridiculous, but the results are fatally real for everyone who is targeted. Only one witness survives, a guy named Manabe (Tamio Kawachi), and he’s suspected of being one of the attackers. The police have him stashed away in their precinct, and outside Sakura and Otsuki gang members wait in their cars, armed with rifles. Don’t worry, they all have the proper permits that say they are going hunting and are just waiting there before they go hunting, which is sort of hilarious. It would be even more hilarious if this wasn’t reality in various open carry states where morons carry AK-47s in public and scare people, and the cops can’t do anything.
The police know Manabe is dead if the mob gets him, and they don’t have enough evidence to hold him forever. So Captain Kumagaya (Nobuo Kaneko) has an idea, he calls on noted Detective Hideo Tajima (Joe Shishido). But to keep everything off the books and confusing in case of leaks or bad ends, Detective Hideo Tajima is given a gun and a permit, all under the fake identity of Ichiro Tanaka. He uses his skills to drive Manabe away from the waiting goons and causes enough of a scene (thanks to a timely cement truck blocking the yakuza vehicles) that they escape, and is instantly recruited to join Manabe’s gang.
Detective Hideo Tajima’s agency has two assistants, who are our comic relief characters in a film that already has a lot of comedy. And one of them, Horiuchi (Hiroshi Hijikata), is a wacky whiny guy, so he grows old really fast. Yes, he gets way more screen time than the other one, Irie (Kotoe Hatsui). Irie runs a scandal magazine when she’s not working for Tajima, which means either her magazine doesn’t pay well or she gets a lot of her gossip tips thanks to her detective work. Irie and Horiuchi spend most of their time together sniping at each other.
Seijun Suzuki must have used a time machine to watch some Shane Black movies, because there are several Christmas references. The woman singer at the club Manabe takes Detective Tajima to to meet the rest of his gang is doing a Christmas inspired number, including women in sparkly bikinis and green or yellow Santa hats dancing in front of a giant Christmas tree. Of course the singer is an ex-girlfriend named Sally (Naomi Hoshi), which Tajima has to dance around so he doesn’t blow his cover. He literally dances around it at one point, being pulled into one of her song and dance numbers.
The rest of the yakuza gang is immediately suspicious of this new guy, which makes perfect sense. They are very very good at tracking down information despite this being the pre-internet days. The gang has a female member, Chiaki (Reiko Sasamori), who is only with them for revenge of her own against gang member Hatano, and to give Detective Tajima two love interests. A series of shootouts, ambushes, and betrayals thins out the cast, and things head towards a conclusion with trucks full of yakuza armed with guns and katana ready to settle scores on all sides before the massive amount of arriving police arrest or kill them all.
All in a day’s detecting, I guess.
The Detective Bureau 2-3 ended after just one more installment – Tantei Jimusho 23 – Zeni To Onna Ni Yowai Otoko (Detective Bureau 23: The Man with a Weakness for Money), which had the misfortune to not be directed by Seijun Suzuki (instead it’s directed by Nozomu Yanase), and thus doesn’t have an easily available DVD or English subtitles, so no comparisons until a subtitled copy magically appears in my hands.
Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! is a fun slice of cheese drizzled with some gruff boarderless action set-pieces. Or maybe it’s a slice of action drizzled with the comedic scenes. In either event, the result is a mashup that doesn’t quite work. The danger scenes, especially when Tajima and Chiaki are trapped in the basement that’s being set on fire, feel far too dangerous for a film where most of the mobsters are bumbling gangs that are easily fooled by Looney Tunes-esque traffic tricks. One could argue that the film was trying to neuter most of the gangs to make the actual gang Tajima infiltrated seem that much more dangerous, but instead it just seems like the film can’t take itself serious enough for us to bother, either. Still, it’s fun seeing Suzuki play around with the yakuza mold, and just because things aren’t good doesn’t mean this isn’t a film worth watching. Just don’t expect a miracle or a clean action film, this is full of schlock.
Rated 5/10 (logo, super cheeks!, going crazy, Santa party, totally not old man makeup)
Please give feedback below!