Tokyo Drifter

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Total Count: 12


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Tokyo Drifter stands with Branded to Kill as one of the best-known and most acclaimed films of Seijun Suzuki, one of Japan's most talented maverick directors. A colorful riot of an action drama, Tokyo Drifter, like many of Suzuki's films, transforms a standard gangster film plot into a vehicle for his own loopy brand of filmmaking, featuring gorgeous cinematography, unconventional storytelling techniques, and a dark sense of humor. This particular example centers on Tetsu, a yakuza member who, when his gang is disbanded, remains loyal to his boss and attempts to go straight. This is no easy task, however, as the yakuza are determined to get him back into the life -- or kill him if he refuses. The pressure soon forces Tetsu to go on the road, becoming the "Tokyo drifter" of the title, but even this is not enough to prevent his past from violently catching up with him. The film's choreographed action and vibrant color palette make the frequent action sequences, including one of the most raucous barroom brawls ever put on film, seem almost like musical numbers, resulting in a spectacularly entertaining and truly original take on the gangster drama. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi


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Critic Reviews for Tokyo Drifter

All Critics (12) | Top Critics (2) | Fresh (12)

Audience Reviews for Tokyo Drifter

  • Apr 24, 2016
    "Setting off to wander, drifting on and on Till memories of Tokyo are gone Don't cry for me, night rain A man's life bleeds away in crimson colors The drifter from Tokyo" Tetsu the Phoenix (Tesuya Watari) sings as he walks along a snowbank trying to avoid a rival Yakuza gang that is out to kill him in Seijun Suzuki's 1966 yakuza film "Tokyo Drifter." Tetsu is very loyal to boss Kurata (Ryuji Kita) who wishes to end his criminal activites and go straight, Tetsu wants to follow. But a rival gang wishes for Kurata to give his seal to a land deed in their real estate scam plan, but when their intimidation fails and Tetsu arrives to save Karuta. Otsuka (Hideaki Esumi), the rival gang boss, wants Tetsu killed so it may be easier to intimidate Karuta. What follows is a very stylish Yakuza picture that shows influences from British gangster films of the era and somehow highlight the swinging sixties attitude of London but in Tokyo. Much has been written about director Suzuki's dislike for Nikkatsu Company and Shomei Imamura who had been given large budgets for his films while Suzuki was given small budgets for B-movies that usually accompanied Imamura's films. He had started directing films in 1956 and by 1963, his films started to get very experimental and surreal. Nikkatsu Company lowered the budget and warned Suzuki against making a bizarre movie. Although, "Tokyo Drifter" is nowhere near the absurd, fragmented storyline that would become his next film "Branded to Kill," Suzuki manages to create a beautiful film along with cinematographer Shigeyoshi Mine. The colors seem to pop as if it were a comic book at times. The film begins in black and white where the white is overblown and the blacks dark before bursting into color. The film is an exagerration of Warholian pop art and MGM musicals. The film suggests a satirical nature and parodies Japanese corporations and abuse of power. A beautiful, stylish film that may leave you wanting to explore more Suzuki films.
    Joseph B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 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.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Dec 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.
    Daniel P 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!"
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer

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