Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 29th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1970
Director: Yukio Noda
Writers: Fumio Konami, Yukio Noda
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Ryohei Uchida, Osman Yusuf, Fumio Watanabe
DVD Released: August 29th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Optimum
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £12.99
The police raid a drug deal that is happening in bus parked in the airport parking lot. Ishigurio and his rat faced sidekick with an unsightly overbite are helped by Hayata (Sonny Chiba) an undercover cop who dresses flamboyantly in a broad-brimmed hat and leather pants. After they are safely away from the pursuing police Ishigurio invites Hayata to a friendly game of cards at his boss’s night club. Hayata is broke in no time and when he is unable to secure a loan from Ishigurio’s boss Mr. Mano leader of the Seiwa gang fate intervenes in the form of masked assassins. Hayata saves Boss Mano’s life and in return is offered a job within his organization. In order to fully expose local Marijuana racket Hayata is forced to go deep undercover. Will Hayata expose all those involved before they rub him out?
Yakuza Deka: The Assassin is the second film in a series of four films with the other three being Yakuza Deka, Yakuza Deka: Poison Gas Affair and Yakuza Deka: No Epitaphs for Us. All four films would star Sonny Chiba and the first two Yakuza Deka films were directed by Yukio Noda who would also direct Sonny Chiba in Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment and Soul of Chiba.
This film is filled with imagery and characters that one would associate with flower power and the late 1960’s psychedelic era. Through out the movie Chiba is dressed in some far out fashions in vogue during the late 1960’s most notably a broad rimmed floppy hat that words cannot describe. While this film has its fare share or action it is not the martial arts fighting we have come to expect from later Sonny Chiba films like the Street Fighter series. The fighting scenes are more like carbon copies of what one would expect to see while watching a 1960’s spy film like James Bond. There is a scene in which Chiba makes love on a rotating bed which is something that is featured in many spy films from this era. The action is top notch as Chiba shows in the Assassin that he is action star on the rise with his acrobatic moves and agility. One moment that showcases his high flying acrobatics take place near the end of the film when Hayata is chasing after the bad guys and to avoid being shot he does a 360 degree flip in the air while he returns fire killing the man who tired to shot him. Chiba is not as brutal in this film as he is later films and some of the acrobatic moves during fight scenes border the absurd as unbelievable feats are accomplished. Sonny Chiba has many talents and in the Assassin and his characters budding but never fully exposed relationship with Mrs. Saori a widow whose husband was a former colleague of Hayata’s. Chiba shows that he is able to more then hold is own when it comes to comedy. One scene in particular in which Ishigurio and Hayata run into a lake because their ass’s have caught on fire and when they emerge from the lake their pants have a big whole that exposes their ass cheeks. This moment is slapstick comedy at its best as both actors play perfectly off of each other. There is even an Asian Charles Bronson look alike in the film and the female assassins in the film look like something straight of Yasuharu Hasebe’s Black Tight Killers. One character that I really enjoyed a lot was Sudo who is an ex-cop who has a drinking problem and now works as an assassin. This character is the most complex of any in the story and one can help but feel for him by the end of the film.
Optimum presents Yakuza Deka: The Assassin in an anamorphic widescreen that restores the films original 2.35:1 Toei scope aspect ratio. Yakuza Deka: The Assassin had been previously released only in full frame cropped versions that completely ruin the look and feel of the films. Optimum just like they had done for their Street Fighter collection has sourced their Yakuza Deka: The Assassin transfer from a 35 MM print. The colors look vivid and even in tone as they perfectly replicate the early 1970’s décor. The black levels are solid and remain strong through out as there is an exceptional amount of detail present in every frame. There are no problems with compression or artifacts and edge enhancement is kept to a minimum. Overall the image remains stable through out and there are no problems with ghosting. This release comes with only one audio option the films original Japanese language track that is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. The dialog is sharp as it is always easy to follow and understand. There are no problems with hiss or distortion. Overall this mix presents the dialog, music and effects as each sound even in tone and pitch as they never drown the other out. English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included. This is also the first time a complete soundtrack is available for this film since the U.S. release titled The Assassin had half of the film in English and the other half in un-subtitled Japanese.
Extras include the films original theatrical trailer and a bio on Sonny Chiba. Other extras include a gallery of original Japanese poster art that includes the following films The Street Fighter, Return of the Street Fighter, The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, Yakuza Deka, Yakuza Deka: The Assasssin, The Bullet Train, The Killing Machine and two posters for Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment. Rounding out the extras is a Sonny Chiba trailer collection that includes the following titles The Street Fighter, Return of the Street Fighter, The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge, Yakuza Deka, The Killing Machine, The Bullet Train, Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment and Time Slip. Yakuza Deka: The Assassin is also available as part of Optimum Asia’s Sonny Chiba collection volume 1 which also includes Yakuza Deka and Killing Machine. Optimum delivers another quality release that is sure to find its way into every Sonny Chiba fans collection. Yakuza Deka: The Assassin is different kind of Sonny Chiba film that is a far cry from his most famous creation Takuma ‘Terry” Tsurugi, still is it a highly entertaining film that is shows early signs of the of Chiba’s undeniable charisma, recommended.
For more information about Yakuza Deka: The Assassin and other titles released by Optimum visit their website.