Yakuza The (1974)
Produced and directed by Sydney Pollack (They Shoot Horses Don’t They? (1969)) with a story by Leonard Schrader that adapted by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne (Chinatown (1974)) this average action drama set in Japan stars Robert Mitchum as Harry Kilmer. It’s a Japanese gangster story about honor and fulfilling one’s debts that starts with greed and betrayal. It includes samurai sword battles that pale in comparison to more recent blade fare. Ken Takakura plays Ken Tanaka who’s reluctantly in Harry’s debt from the post-World War II Allied occupation years in Japan over a woman Eiko (Keiko Kishi). There are family entanglements which aren’t fully revealed until near the end of the film though they are alluded to earlier. Harry has traveled back to Japan after a twenty year absence at the request of his friend George Tanner (Brian Keith) who’d also been in the military with Kilmer after the war. Herb Edelman plays a third who still lives in Tokyo; his home becomes Harry’s base of operations. Tanner’s bodyguard Dusty (Richard Jordan) is sent along to help Harry who’s charged with asking Tanaka (“a man who never smiles”) to help with the titled “mafia”; Dusty is attracted to Eiko’s daughter Hanako (Christina Kokubo). Tanaka used to be a member of the group and now his brother Goro (James Shigeta) in Kyoto is its leader. Tanner has a dispute with a powerful less honorable member of the Yakuza named Tono (Eiji Okada) over a missing shipment of guns; Tono in turn has kidnapped Tanner’s daughter which is why Harry and Dusty have been sent to Japan.