The Last Gunfight (Review)
The Last Gunfight
aka 暗黒街の対決 aka Ankokugai no taiketsu
Written by Shin’ichi Sekizawa
Based on the book Chi no Wana by Haruhiko Oyabu
Directed by Kihachi Okamoto
The Last Gunfight is basically Toshiro Mifune coming to a town besieged by warring yakuza and taking them all down in that time honored fashion that we all know and love from various samurai, western, and yakuza movies.
Detective Saburo Fujioka (Toshiro Mifune) is accused of corruption and transferred to Kojin, a city run rampant with crime. Fujioka inserts himself in the middle of the city’s gang troubles, and we don’t know initially his motives, which gives him a sort of Man with No Name vibe. He gets into several fights by way of not saying much of anything while figuring out the lay of the gangs, seemingly showing that the best way to know these enemies is to make them start fights with you. He does most of this without bothering to tell the Kojin police anything that he is doing.
The Ooka gang is the one causing much of the problems in the city. Kyuzaburo Ooka (Seizaburo Kawazu) doesn’t follow the unwritten rules of honor for yakuza gangs, leading to strife with factions like the Kozukas. But Ooka does know how to throw money and violence around, meaning his slices of the pie keep getting bigger without all that honor stuff holding him back. Kozuka’s group represents the status quo, but their old fashion rules threaten to leave them in the dustbin of history as Ooka gains more and more territory. Kozuka believes in the old way of the yakuza having a sort of honor (let’s leave the arguments about the realities of this romanticized view aside for now) and tells a tale about how he spent money fixing the sewage system of the town at a loss just to help the people, and Ooka predictably mocks him for that.
Fujioka befriends a retired Kozuka gang member named Tetsuo Maruyama (Koji Tsuruta), who now runs an Old West themed bar. There is a subplot about him searching for the man who ran over his wife (who may have been already killed by someone else, and is connected to Ooka) and another about his sister, Sally (Yoko Tsukasa), who works at Ooka’s club and secretly records conversations there. Eventually the bar is shot up, Kozuka is murdered, and Fujioka is going to have to step up and end the Ooka problem while all the other loose plot threads start unraveling.
Besides Mifune, the most recognizable face for Western audiences is probably Akihiko Hirata, who plays hired killer Susumu Tendo, brought in by Ooka. He plays a slick, cool killer who jumps from friendly to incredibly dangerous at the flick of a switch. The effect is greater because the general tone of The Last Gunfight is light-hearted and cheery, and Tendo plays along until becoming a serious threat. He’s surrounded by actors portraying either dim-witted hitmen or weapon-obsessed psychopaths, making his calm but tough tone stand out even more. He’s only in the film just enough, but it is enough that you remember his role as far larger than it was. It elevates The Last Gunfight above the fray of your average yakuza flick into a good crime film you can
The Last Gunfight is part of Toho’s Underworld (Ankokugai) series, and was Kihachi Okamoto’s second entry (of 3), though he’s better known in the West from his large amount of samurai cinema – Samurai Assassin, Sword of Doom, Kill!, and Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo. Let’s not forget Ironfinger, another light-hearted flick with Akihiko Hirata as a killer! Okamoto was a big fan of Westerns, and transplanted Western tropes into his films (as well as utilizing it as the bar decor in this one!) It is reported that an English dubbed version was made, I’ve never seen it so I don’t know if it got into wide release, but there are reports that it aired on US tv a few times.
Rated 7/10 (Toho time, bottle targets, lighting gone spooky, club logo, neon sign time, tattoo fold-in, the army comes to clean up the town!)
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