Top to bottom: Eiko, Kilmer, KenThe Yakuza
is a 1974 film directed by Sydney Pollack
. (Retired) detective Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum
) goes to Japan to help out an old friend, George Tanner (Brian Keith
), who had been dealing with the yakuza
. The yakuza
had kidnapped his daughter and her boyfriend to coerce Tanner into a business deal
Harry and Tanner's friendship goes back to World War II
, when they served together as Marines in Japan. While in Japan, Harry had fallen in love with a local woman, Eiko, and helped save her sick daughter. Eiko's brother Ken was disgraced by his sister's relationship with a former enemy soldier and he disappeared into the yakuza underworld. However, since Ken owes a lifelong debt (called giri
in the movie) to Harry, he reluctantly joins them to help rescue Tanner's daughter.
They successfully rescue the hostages, but in doing so they anger the yakuza and contracts on Ken and Harry's lives are issued. Harry refuses to abandon Ken and his family while their lives are in danger, defending them from yakuza attackers, but he eventually learns how much pain his presence in their lives has caused them
. Despite this, Ken and Harry overcome their differences, helped by Harry's openness to Japanese tradition.
The film emphasizes Japanese tradition and honor among the yakuza, and remarkably has two yubitsume
The film was written by Paul Schrader and his brother Leonard. Paul would notably go on to write Taxi Driver
. Rewrites were also undertaken by Robert Towne who wrote Chinatown
If you went to this page hoping for a page describing the yakuza, sorry. It's here
This film provides examples of:
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Tanner's daughter is kidnapped by the yakuza as leverage for a deal
- Asian Babymama: Harry is not Hanako's biological father, but he acts like her adoptive one. Of course, true to his roots, Kilmer hasn't seen either Eiko or Hanako in twenty years, instead choosing to go back to America when his service was up and Eiko refused to marry him.
- Born in the Wrong Century: Ken, according to his brother.
- Camping a Crapper: Averted; several Yakuza thugs follow Ken into the mens room of a nightclub. He's waiting for them behind the door, but they only want to talk.
- Clothing Damage: Ken has a Shirtless Scene by the end of the Final Battle.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Ken and Kilmer vs. yakuza goons
- Culture Clash
- Disposable Woman
- Door Slams You
- Duel to the Death: In a film about honor, inevitable.
- Face-Heel Turn: Tanner betrays Kilmer. Kilmer repays him with several bullets.
- Heel-Face Turn: Dusty admits that he knew all along what Tanner was up to, and asks to make it up to Kilmer.
- Fedora of Asskicking: The Yakuza man who holds Eiko at knifepoint. It hides the spider tattoo on his forehead, revealing that he's Ken's nephew.
- Fire-Forged Friends: Subverted; it's not until Kilmer's act of atonement that Ken can truly accept his friendship.
- Guns Akimbo: Kilmer wields a Colt .45 with a .38 pistol while storming Tanner's office or a double-barreled shotgun (for the Final Battle).
- Hardboiled Detective: Only Bogart could do better than Mitchum here.
- Honor Before Reason
- Improvised Weapon: Ken knocks down several yakuza with a bicycle!
- It's Personal: See Sacrificial Lion
- Katanas Are Just Better
- Loophole Abuse: According to Yakuza tradition, Ken must kill Tono with a sword. However there's no such restraints on Kilmer, who can use firearms to hold off Tono's numerous bodyguards.
- Love Triangle: See The Reveal
- Meaningful Echo: "Please accept this token of my apology."
- Mighty Whitey: Averted in that it's a large part of the film that Harry has to work to understand Japanese values and culture and needs Ken as a guide. And by the time the final battle rolls around, it's clearly Ken's fight and Harry is his support.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Kilmer at The Reveal, and Ken when he kills his nephew in retribution for Hanako's murder in the final battle
- Only I Can Kill Him: Ken has to kill Tono according to the Yakuza code, while Harry demands the right to take care of Tanner himself.
- Oh, Crap (to go with My God, What Have I Done?)
- Pillars of Moral Character: Giri is explicitly mentioned, though the others are important too.
- Retired Badass
- The Reveal: Kilmer gets some new perspective on the film's backstory. Eiko is not actually Ken's sister, but his wife.
- Sacrificial Lion: Hanako
- She Is All Grown Up: Hanako
- The Stoic: Ken is called as The Man Who Never Smiles.
- Tattooed Crook
- There Was a Door: Easy to do when the walls are made of paper.
- Yubitsume: Ken in atonement for killing his nephew, after he'd promised his brother not to harm him. In a surprise twist Kilmer, on the verge of leaving Japan at the end of the movie, returns to Ken's place and cuts off his own finger, apologising for the pain he's caused Ken and asking that he forgive Eiko.
- Wall of Weapons: In Oliver Wheat's house.