Tokyo Drifter - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Tokyo Drifter Reviews

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January 23, 2017
A little too goofy. There were so many yakuza gangs fighting with each other I couldn't understand all the alliances, double crosses and loyalties. Though maybe that wasn't the point...
January 2, 2017
Tokyo Drifter is a style-over-substance sort of film. It is vividly colorful, but could use more dramatic heft. Good period piece and moderately fun film, overall.
Super Reviewer
April 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.
½ May 14, 2015
awesome yakuza-action film.
½ March 30, 2015
Highly stylized and fast moving, this flick is a good way to dive into some of the source material for Tarantino. One of the opening shots definitely is echoed in Reservoir Dogs, and the direction of each scene was clearly done by someone with an artistic vision. However, the story gets a little hokey and it's not the most gripping tale. Overall, this is one for a solo watching, and not reason to invite friends over.
March 25, 2015
Tokyo Drifter is probably one of the most amazing film I have ever seen. At first I got taken aback by the strange way the storyline unfolds but then I got completely won over by the visual work, the colors, costumes, textures, camera angles and facial expressions of the lead character. What a beautiful piece of film making! Suzuki is an incredible storyteller and a magnificent craftsman, the scenes where he shoots the car park and tilt his camera to the right to capture the car coming towards us is a hallucinating master shot that I had never seen before.... great camera work from his technician .... they did know how to shoot a film back then and weren't afraid to experiment with their material even if it means losing some narrative coherence. De Palma is probably the last artisan to work this way, privileging the technique rather than leveling down the story to make it accessible and mainstream. This Tokyo Drifter feels like a hallucination in a Dreamy Tokyo where Yakuza are fighting each-others for turf, money or power. The scene in the snow is gorgeous but so simple, you realize sometimes all it takes is a good cinematographer to actually turn a scenes into something far greater and memorable. He final confrontation in the white set is also extremely famous and beyond amazing and I will not even start with the color changing blinds in the office when the secretary gets killed by a lost bullet! What a beautiful scenes, the lighting work is freaking insane..... I highly recommend this film to anyone willing to watch something unique and really unconventional but still accessible for most viewers. This is a rare film that deserves to be seen and shared.
February 18, 2015
A penitent gangster (Tetsuya Watari) is looking to retire from the yakuza lifestyle, but the machinations of his friends, rivals, and enemies are making that very difficult. Like many of Seijun Suzuki's films, Tokyo Drifter finds the director taking a boilerplate story and running it through a filter of idiosyncrazy. There's a number of (really fake-looking) shoot-em-ups and fistfights, but the highlights of this film can be found in its interesting sets, odd expressions of color, cheeseball use of gallows humor, and singular camera angles. Tokyo Drifter isn't much of a gangster movie, but it's an interesting showcase for a B-movie director who is sick of regurgitating genre cliches.
September 10, 2014
I have to confess that while watching this film, I scarcely paid attention to the unfoldings of the plot. That being said, I've the feeling that even then, I took away all I needed to from the narrative so far as the dialogue and character interactions were concerned. The real meat of this film lies in the visual presentation--and it does so immaculately. The use of vibrant color, shadows, stylized staging, and genre crossing approach to what seemed to be an otherwise typical crime thriller is what really pops here--the story serves only to present these elements to the viewer.
July 11, 2014
blew me away just like its sister pic 'branded to kill'
June 25, 2014
This. This is what love looks like.
October 7, 2013
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½ September 25, 2013
Seijun Suzuki's Tokyo Drifter takes a generic yakuza plot and embellishes it into a sixties pop art confection with brightly colored costumes and sets, swinging music (including a few moments where the characters break into the theme song about drifting). The whole thing verges into camp while the existential hero, bound by loyalty to his boss but cut loose from the disbanded gang, plays it straight. Yet for all of its surface pleasures, I found the film strangely uninvolving, as if the audience were being kept at arm's length so as better to marvel at the wackiness. In other words, I wanted to like it more.
½ August 7, 2013
It's more madcap and less coherent than Seijun Suzuki's previous film "Youth of the Beast", but Tokyo Drifter is still a cool as ice Japanese neo-noire film that once again demonstrates its directors visual and stylistic flare. Tetsuya Watari also delivers an impressive performance, but its Suzuki's exuberant visual style and the colourful cinematography that really bring the film to life. For fans of Yakuza films or Seijun Suzuki, Tokyo Drifter should be a must watch.
July 27, 2013
Pushing the boundaries with this Japanese mafia story about trying to go straight. To be honest, much of the movie was confusing and hard to follow. But it must be applauded for its creativity and original work.
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.
April 20, 2013
This much style ought to be illegal
Super Reviewer
½ April 6, 2013
Good looks can't save this nonsensical nonsense.
March 14, 2013
Colorful and enjoyable, Tokyo Drifter is a solid piece of work from Seijun Suzuki.
½ March 3, 2013
A colorful, jazzy yakuza film
Super Reviewer
½ February 2, 2013
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.
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