Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 18th, 2006
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1970
Director: Yukio Noda
Writers: Fumio Konami
Cast: Sonny Chiba, Ryohei Uchida, Tetsuro Tamba, Giant Baba
DVD Released: August 29th, 2005
Approximate Running Time: 85 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo
DVD Release: Optimum Asia
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: £12.99
Hayata (Sonny Chiba) an undercover cop befriends a yakuza underling who through his contacts helps him infiltrate two rival Yakuza gangs. Hayata pits the two rival gangs against each other in hopes that they will cross each other out. The word soon gets out about his double dealings and Hayata soon finds himself fighting for his life.
Long before Sonny Chiba made his mark in cinema history as Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi in the Street Fighter films he would create another equally charismatic character in the Yakuza Deka films named Hayata. Both characters are tough as nails and known they way around with the ladies. Their main difference is Terry rarely if ever lets his guard down while Hayata is a laid back persona. Yakuza Deka: is the first film in a series of four films with the other three being Yakuza Deka: The Assassin, Yakuza Deka: Poison Gas Affair and Yakuza Deka: No Epitaphs for Us.
Yakuza Deka was directed by Yukio Noda who would also direct Sonny Chiba in Golgo 13: Kowloon Assignment, Soul of Chiba and Yakuza Deka: The Assassin. Noda’s direction is never dull and many of his action sequences like when Chiba shots his gun while doing a cartwheel will leave you breathless. Also he approaches the material at hand with a sense of humor that is sadly lacking in most spy/action films.
Hayata is a James Bond like detective who is as resourceful as he is lucky when the numbers seem to be stacked against him. Sonny Chiba is mesmerizing as Hayata as he shows that even as early as the early 1970’s that he was a marital arts actor to be reckoned with. Also Chiba and the various other actors are obviously having fun through out especially Ryohei Uchida the actor who plays Tetsuji the Yakuza he befriends. The pairing of Chiba and Uchida is nothing short of brilliant as the two effortlessly play off of each other. There is a rivalry between the two men that is established in a series of pissing contests to see who the best is.
Overall Yakuza Deka has a strong plot that never drags and plenty of over the top action sequences which all makes for one hell of a ride.
Optimum presents Yakuza Deka in an anamorphic widescreen that restores the films original 2.35:1 Toei scope aspect ratio. Optimum just like they had done for their previous Sonny Chiba collection releases have sourced their Yakuza Deka’s transfer from a 35 MM print. Colors are lucid and nicely saturated through out. Black levels are solid and details look sharp in the back ground and fore ground. There are no problems with compression, artifacts or edge enhancement and the image remains stable through out.
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 clear and the music and effects sound evenly balanced with the rest of the mix. There are no problems with hiss or distortion. English subtitles that are easy to read and follow have been included.
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 Assassin, 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 Asia has put together another exceptional release. Yakuza Deka besides being packed with nigh flying action also offers fans of Sonny Chiba a rarely seen lighter side with its outlandish take of the action hero genre, highly recommended.