Tokyo Drifter - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tokyo Drifter Reviews

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Super Reviewer
April 23, 2007
Makes no damn sense at all. Pretty colors though. This was like a Daniel Clowes yakuza comic with more than a few pages missing.
Super Reviewer
½ December 20, 2012
The first Yakuza film I've ever seen, and for me, a real eye-opener. I love movies about trying to leave a life of crime behind, and I really enjoyed this one and got behind the hero, Tetsu. If you're a Tarantino fan, watching this (or other Suzuki films) will put his work (particularly the Kill Bill films) into proper context. Exotic music, insanely bright colours, and as far as I'm aware, the earliest instance in my viewing history of the supered-on-the-screen text that we're seeing more and more in North American films, too. A window into 60s Japanese pop culture, and like nothing I've ever seen before.
Super Reviewer
May 30, 2012
A pop 60's aesthetic, a cool like Steve McQueen, a powder blue seersucker suit and an indescribable plot miraculously combine in this B-movie chic from Japan about a mob guy (the Yakusa, baby!) trying to go straight. As another made guy famously said: "... every time I try to get out they drag me back in!"
Super Reviewer
March 21, 2011
Seijun Suzuki's "Tokyo Drifter" is a very silly but important B-Movie. It encompasses the 1960s Japanese New Wave into one film. It's visual and auditory mischief can certainly be amusing (and often copied, most notably by Quentin Tarantino with "Kill Bill: Volume 1") but it also adds up to next to nothing. It's hard to fully embrace a film that makes so little sense. There is nothing to plug into emotionally or narratively. The film may be fun and it's use of color is dazzling, but without any human anchor (which Tarantino certainly added to his pictures) we are left will all style and very little substance.
Super Reviewer
July 26, 2009
this score is almost entirely for the absurd but excellent gun fight at the end of the film. the film was shot very well, highly stylized, and the characters were excellent, but the method of storytelling knocks this film down for being entirely incoherent. a good film that could have been a masterpiece had it made a bit more sense.
Super Reviewer
November 26, 2006
Tokyo, the gangster Tetsu (Tetsuya Watari) regenerates when his yakuza boss Kurata (Ryuji Kita) decides to quit his criminal life. However, the mobster family leaded by Otsuka (Hideaki Esumi) threatens Kurata's legitimate business, and Tetsu decides to leave Kurata to relief the pressure on him. He leaves also his girlfriend Chiharu (Chieko Matsubara) and becomes a drifter moving to the country. When Tetsu is betrayed, he returns to Tokyo to resolve his situation.

Don't remember why exatctly I put this on my lovefilm rental list but I'm pretty glad that I did. Tokyo Drifter is something get extrodinary and very unliked most films that I've seen. Also don't often catch a B Film at all.

Japnese Cinema of the 1960s. I believe was inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill and Kill Bill 2. This is evident in the faboulous sets and brilliant imagery that Suzuki implements into this films. The story is very much the same, with the Tokyo Drifter (Tetsu) playing a similar role to Uma Thuram's character. Definatly check it out if you enjoy Tarantino'd cinema.

Tokyo Drifter take you into the world of Japanese Organised crime, with much of it feeling like you're watching a 1960's Bond film. The narrative is at times pretty bizzare and you really have to pay attention to the subtitles and what's going in in every scene. Which brings me on to the translated dialogue, which did seem a little oddly phrased at times. Argubaly this adds to the enjoymet of the film!

With some rather bizzare musical sequences, including a rather catching soundtrack and some great corny dialogue-not understanding the plot may not necessarily matter. For instance the musical sequences and the theme somehow has a symbolic reference, depending on how you look at it.
I mean, every musical sequence, was injected with a colourful pop art like backdrop, which is pratically postmodern. What I loved about that is that is it really depicts the 1960's so well.

Intrestingly, I noticed some of changing of scenes, was at time done so quick that you got lost in the story. Not quite sure of the purpose of that but somehow it doesn't matter. One brilliant thing to look out for is the changing colour in the openinging sequence, then to colour. This makes it feel like a distant memory or some sorts.

Overall, you can tell from my review that I don't watch a lot of Japanese cinema from the 1960's, so apologies for that. I highly recomend this film for it's gorgeous set design and one theme that you'll be whistling for hours. The plot is conventional, but at times hard to follow. If you keep at it you'll feel like you've watched an excellent film!

Look out for the brilliant end sequence!

Highly recomended

Super Reviewer
½ September 3, 2007
Decades before people like Takashi Miike started to twist everyone's minds with his blend of genres and experimental strokes, Seijun Suzuki was already doing it all the way back to the 60's with his iconic yakuza flicks.

A young Tetsuya Watari plays the lead here, as Tetsuya "Phoenix", your usual honorable pre-Fukasaku yakuza lead that just wants to go straight after his boss disbanded the band he was in. As usual for this type of stories, Tetsuya gets betrayed and chased by all sorts of enemies.

"Average" and "usual" ends exactly at that point, while things start quite pedestrian Suzuki wastes no time in twisting the narrative and the color composition. From scenarios that switch between one color to another, to Tetsuya Watari's sky blue suit and all the way to the snowy mountains of Japan, the film becomes a strange mix. Suzuki can be blamed for being a style over substance director, yet the style of a film like this was so out of control and creative, for both the era and even for today's standards, that it's hard not to admire the man. How can you say no to a film where the main characters whistles the main theme of said film?

Catchiest theme song ever + Tetsuya Watari + Suzuki's creative takes = safe winner. Nikkatsu might had fire him for BTK, but i'm surprised they didn't do it for this one. The film is so out there it looks as if it has been made in another dimension.

And again, i dare you not to love that theme song. You will end whistling it when you less expect it.
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2011
Criterion have finally made an essential upgrade from their old DVD version and have realized a beautiful and faithful representation of Seijun Suzuki's "Tokyo Drifter"! This along with the film "Branded to Kill" released the following year, and ultimately getting Suzuki fired, are his most acclaimed and well known films of the renegade Director. The B&W opening with the overblown contrast is captured beautifully and really is poetic in it's image and being. The film then progresses into color and into the lives of various men and women both in and involved in some way to the Yakuza. Tetsuya Watari plays Hondo Tetsuya who is a skilled yakuza trying to go straight along with his boss and beat their old habits of the gang. This dream is torn apart as another rival syndicate enters the picture and threatens everything. The film is what I would consider an artistic action film that explodes with every gun fight and set piece with style to spare! The film is disjointed and crosscuts are used right as we are about to see something happen and then we are hours away and in a different area then before. It isn't until we realize that even though we didn't see the kill or other action, it was done and we have already moved on in the story in order to fit such a film into 82 minutes. This film is a fun and artsy adventure film that uses it's plot to advance the film to and from set pieces that the heart of the stylish film resides and is a blast to watch knowing the intention of the Director.
Super Reviewer
February 28, 2010
A 1966 colourful, quirky and funny action yakuza film, TOKYO DRIFTER is about a yakuza clan gone straight and the lead henchman Tetsue's efforts to keep them so when a rival gang try to turn them to the dark side again. It's got a black and white start, realistic streetscenes cutting to luridly mono-coloured stage sets, a muddling set of secondary characters, a 60's daytime discoteque and a catchy theme tune (called Tokyo Drifter of course) that keeps popping up whenenever our hero is looking suitably enigmatic or pensive. Directed by Seijun Suziuki, a Japanese director who made a number of B movies in Japan before his masterpiece BRANDED TO KILL got him banded from the studio for being too surreal. Not much known outside Japan either until equally maverick directors like Tarantino, Jarmusch and Takesh Kitano got him noticed in the 90's. If its good enough for them...
Super Reviewer
May 15, 2008
Doesn't make any sense, but the main guy Tetsu has some cool suits.
Super Reviewer
½ April 22, 2013
Visually ahead of its time, "Tokyo Drifter" is visually one of the most stylish and influential films to emerge from its generation. Its costume design and cinematography are so vibrant and colorful that almost every frame is a work of art, and the jazz score is exceptional as well. Problem is that as a source of entertainment, it is a failure. The narrative (however much of one there is) is so utterly incoherent and the characters are so uninteresting and dispensable that "Tokyo Drifter" gets boring to watch just after the first ten minutes. Having great visuals is one thing, but having a worthwhile story with characters you can invest emotion in is something much, much more important.
Super Reviewer
½ March 8, 2009
Good looks can't save this nonsensical nonsense.
Super Reviewer
½ October 15, 2008
'Tokyo Drifter' Comes And Goes

A '60s Japanese gangster movie that plays more like an urban western. There's even a barroom brawl! Tarantino has said this was one of the inspirational films for Kill Bill Vol. 1, I didn't know that until afterwards but while watching this some elements of KB came to mind like the color schemes and the suit & tie gang of hoods and the glass-floored club. Visually striking, dramatically routine, and displays some of the most discontinuous editing ever put on screen, it's like a style of its own! Plus you have to hear the theme song about 15 times.
Super Reviewer
March 16, 2007
Another great film from Suzuki. This is a colourful film that is fun to look at and has a great lead character. Great scenes include, the final confrontation and the wicked bar fight. A must see.
April 6, 2010
I think I enjoyed this more for Suzuki's visual stylizations than for the actual plot. This isn't to say anything bad about the plot, it's perfectly fin, but I found myself more intrigued by the vivid use of color and the way certain shots are composed rather than the tale that was being told for a good amount of the film's running time.

Well worth a look, recommended.
½ June 8, 2009
Tky nagaremono or Tokyo Drifter (1966)

Not to be confused with Tokyo Drift, which is part of the Fast and the Furious franchise (the title could have been a tip of the hat to this movie though). Tokyo Drifter is about a Yakuza gangster who has tried to go straight and is forced to wonder the countryside alone to protect his X-boss and girlfriend.

I remember the theme song from back when I was going to college. I worked in a Japanese restaurant and they'd play those two songs (Blue Clouds and Tokyo Drifter). We would get many homesick Japanese businessmen that would come in and many of them would sing along tearfully with the music. The song sounded so sad, but I never heard it again until I saw the Kill Bill movie where they included it as an homage to this movie. But, director, Seijun Suzuki's use of color and black & white in the film is also copied in the Kill Bill movies.

It's your standard gangster fare. Tetsu "the Phoenix" Hondo (Tetsuya Watari) joins his Boss, Kurata (Ryuji Kita) decision to go straight and disbands his gang. The rival gangs want more than just Kurata's territory. They want his straight business too. Tetsuya (who is ultra cool in his powder blue suit, white shoes and dangling cigarette) leaves town thinking that he is the one who is bringing the heat to his boss. He wanders the countryside trying to keep from getting arrested by the police or shot by these rivals gangs. This movie really celebrates the 60s and really makes me want to see Suzuki's Branded To Kill (1967), which is supposed to be even better.
½ January 27, 2007
There were some great scenes but it didn't manage to be as entertaining as Branded to Kill. The conventional yazuka honor/betrayal story arc was not hard to follow, unfortunately I don't care for plot of any Suzuki film I've seen, it's his stylish excess that I love. I could see an attempt to make the film more abstract than Youth of the Beast but there were still not enough awesome action scenes to make up for the boring exposition. The film lacks the atmosphere and humor of Branded to Kill. Not having Jo Shishido as the lead also hurts.
April 17, 2008
A surreal gangster movie that is as stylish as it is violent. Actually it's more stylish than it is violent.

While the plot synopsis here calls the movie "nearly incomprehensible", I didn't find it that difficult to follow. The movie is definitely more about style than substance, but after the somewhat complicated setup the plot really becomes rather simplistic.

In any case, the film features an engaging hero, striking use of color, some great sets, nifty music, and a cool final showdown.
January 31, 2008
Tetsu is really likable. He looks like a manga/anime character. Reminds me of GTO. I liked the music as well.
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