Battles Without Honor and Humanity (1973)

Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, Kunie Tanaka, Eiko Nakamura,
Jingi naki tatakai is a movie starring Bunta Sugawara, Hiroki Matsukata, and Kunie Tanaka. During the violent chaos of post-War Japanese black market, a young gangster called Shozo Hirono has to keep up with the rapid shifts of...
  • 7.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Koichi Iiboshi, Kazuo Kasahara, Writer:
  • Kinji Fukasaku, Director:
  • Producer:


9 / 10

A violent, bloody masterpiece

I don't get what's with those people who think "Battles Without Honor Or Humanity" has something to do with "The Godfather". The only notable similarity is that both delve into the criminal underworlds. But so what ? "The Godfather" didn't invent this genre. Furthermore the story in "Battles" was adapted from newspaper articles describing various yakuza activities. What Kinji Fukasaku created is a brilliant, violent tale about the dark and unforgiving nature of the Japanese crime syndicates it is also a story about friendship and betrayal.

This is a tale about a group of young men who after the end of the Second World War find themselves outcasts from society, under pursuit by the authorities. They inevitably bond together and form a new crime syndicate under the leadership of boss Yamamoto. As their organization grows in power so do the internal struggles between them begin to escalate. Slowly, either from pure greed and the corruption of power or by Yamamoto's careful manipulations. It's hard not to draw comparison with "Battle Royale" Fukusako's most notable film released in the late nineties. Both present a similar in a way situation: friends fight friends for their own survival.The only difference being that here that is done in a much more subtle way. But the elements are still the same, characters are likable well fleshed-out and the viewer is thrown into an internal struggle of his own when he sees them killing each other. Fukasaku's type of narration is one that involves multiple points of view, we don't have such a strong focus on main character as most movies do, there is one of course Shozo Hirono (played by the ever great Bunta Sugawara) but he serves the role of executing the movie's catharsis, he is the one who becomes a witness to all the madness and senseless killings and it is his final actions that define that, his realization and his rebellion to it all, his final display of grief to friends lost for nothing.

The acting is superb on all fronts, with a diverse cast of characters who offer a different perspective with their own point of view. Fukasaku demonstrates his great skill as a director, his technique perfectly fitting to the movie's tone. By using a fast-paced, erratic, nearly chaotic style the action scenes offer us that taste of brutality we wouldn't have felt had they been directed in a more traditional manner. Fukasaku strays from the established formula of people getting killed fast and easy with one or two bullets instead he shows us an alternative to that : a slow, painful exercise, one that more accurately portrays the yakuza's violent lifestyle. Yet there are no large body counts, the battles are often predetermined with one side attacking an individual or small group from the other, by surprise and in overwhelming force. There really is no honor in the Japanese underworld.

"Battles Without Honor Or Humanity" is the epitome of humanity's own self-destructive nature. The one that drives us to aim for a higher financial and social standing on any means. With no regard for friends, family, honor or trust.

8 / 10

Great Tale of No Honor Among Thieves

Based on a true story Battles Without Honor is a kick ass trip through the rise of the yakuza in post war Japan. Beginning in 1945 and traveling through the next 12 or so years this is the tale of a group of friends who come together in order to survive the cruelties of post-war, and post-bomb Japan and then spend the next decade killing each other as they change sides in a perpetual gang war.

This film has just about everything. Moments of violence, hysterical comedy (The finger), drama, and there is even hints of romance as a moll tries to hide her beau. Its brutal and nasty and probably very close to reality.

Some reviews paint this as having come in the wake of the Godfather, but while that may have gotten the movie made, the tone is different. There is no honor, there is no loyalty, there is only violence, violence and more violence, usually ex-friend on ex-friend. Despite there being "gangs" its really everyman for himself. American and European films of the same period often painted things as much less cut throat and that there really was familial loyalty, that idea is somewhat alien here as people switched sides if it kept them alive.

This is a near perfect film in many ways. It picks you up from the opening minutes and carries you along to the end. Its wonderfully of a time and place and extremely well acted all around.

There are only two problems which are minor. First, I think the film requires a bit more familiarity with what was going on in Japan post war. While I have had some knowledge of that, I was a tad lost at the start since I wasn't instantly aware of what I was seeing. The second minor flaw is that its jump through time story telling can be a bit disorienting. Its not that the plot threads are lost, its just that it takes a minute to know who the older people are.

Over all a great film.

8 out of 10, although it probably should be 9 out of 10, since I'm just in a down mood.

9 / 10

Oh, Yeah! (all 6 films)

Oh, yeah, this is one brilliant, edgy, dark piece of film-making! It moves at the speed of light starting with the American Occupation of the devastated city of Hiroshima after WWII up to the early 1970's.

It has great actors playing complex characters, and cinematography and editing way ahead of its time.

Turn off your phone and don't look away for even a second, or you'll miss something critical. There are many characters and lots of information to absorb.

I've read that the script was based on the life of a real Yakuza, but whether it's fact or fiction, it's a hell of a ride.

And though it's a serious film, sometimes it's also hilarious-- intentionally so.

Warning--not for the squeamish. Unlike the Tarentino films this has been compared to, the violence here is NOT cartoonish or funny. It's brutal, bloody, and serious. (as it should be, in my opinion)

9 / 10

Simply great...

For those who love yakuza films, this is one NOT to miss. Wild violence to start the film (two arms are lopped off within the first five minutes of the flick) sets a tone of dread (you don't know who'll be killed next). But more than action, the film brings a thoughtfulness to the fore. For those who want an English-language analogy, this film "feels" like Soderbergh's The Limey (though with a different plot and without the bouncing back-and-forth in time [though this movie does jump years in its narrative]).

Don't miss this one...

6 / 10

And now for something completely different...

Although it has certain stylistic similarities with other movies (the extreme violence of the LONE WOLF & CUB films and the gangster shenanigans of THE GODFATHER and its ilk), BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY is very much a unique and almost surreal slice of Japanese yakuza madness.

The story is told in a choppy style and takes place over a number of years. It sees various criminal gangs emerging in post-war Japan, engaging in various rivalries with one another as various gangster bosses strive to outdo their rivals. Into this messy mix are thrown various larger-than-life characters, foremost of whom is Hirono Shozo, played with emotional relish by Bunta Sugawara.

The first half of the film is largely confusing with a large cast of similar characters all battling one another and indeed I wondered what I was watching at some points. However, it all distills down and becomes much more focused in the second half, which follows the members of a single crime family in their bid for leadership. There's little action here, but Kinji Fukasaku (BATTLE ROYALE) directs with stylish aplomb, making this a more than memorable gangster epic.