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Directed by Hideo Gosha
Starring Tatsuya Nakadai

Anyone in the mood for some early seventies Yakuza action? Director Hideo Gosha (The Sword of the Beast, Samurai Wolf I and II) brings us the great Tatsuya Nakadai in The Wolves, recently released on DVD by Animeigo.

The Movie

If you are unfamiliar with the term Yakuza, let me give you a quick definition. Yakuza, also known as gokudō ,are members of traditional organized crime groups in Japan. Today, the Yakuza are among the largest crime organizations in the world. In Japan, as of 2005, there are some 86,300 known members. Okay, now that we are all up to speed, on with the review.

Seji Iwahashi (Tatsuya Nakadai) is getting out of prison. While he is still strong and mentally agile, he is more pensive about returning to his old Yakuza life. While he used to find it exciting, he now looks upon “the life” as empty and pointless.

He also finds upon reentering his organization that things have changed. His old boss has died, under some very vague circumstances. He shows respect for his old boss while trying to reconcile his feelings for the new boss and the new way of doing things. Iwahashi can only seem to manage to “fake” the feelings and mannerisms of his past life while he tries to figure out if he really wants to return to the gokudo at all.

Increasing stress, political schemes and old tensions continue to build until everything boils over at a festival when the two main yakuza “families” emotions can no longer be contained.

The Wolves is a different type of yakuza film. Concerned less with a cool image and tough guy antics, Nakadai instead focuses on the soul of this yakuza. He seems to want the audience to truly identify with him and his plight instead of being wrapped up in being a toughie.

While there are solid performances throughout this film, the true standout is Tatsuya Nakadai. Anyone who is a frequent reader of Cinegeek knows how big a fan I am of Tatsuya Nakadai. From Zatoichi at the Fire Festival, Harakiri, The Sword of Doom, Samurai Rebellion and many other films too numerous to continue to list, he is truly one of the greats of Japanese cinema. His powerful and nuanced performance in this film is just another addition to an impressive body of work. He is absolutely magnetic and charismatic is his portrayal of the melancholy Iwahashi.

Hideo Gosha delivers another impressive film and the original music by Masaru Sato adds a great touch to this unusual yakuza film. It is readily apparent that Sato was influenced by the great film composer Ennio Morricone.

So, what more can I say? Add this film to your Japanese film collection at once. Or at least go log into Netflix and move this film to the top of your queue.


The Video

The Wolves is presented in anamorphic widescreen. The image is nicely detailed, the colors are vibrant and the black levels are respectable. Another nice job by Animeigo


The Audio

The Wolves is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Animeigo continues to offer a choice in English subtitles, with a choice of “dialogue only” or “captions and dialogue” offer. The latter offers the viewer of understanding of cultural symbols and kanji that is present. The dialogue is clear and easily understood.


The Packaging and Bonus Features

The Wolves is presented in a standard amaray case with a striking image of a Tatsuya Nakadai on the cover with a stark white background. Great job, Animeigo.

There is an abundance of text based information available to the viewer. These are divided by the following categories: Cast and Crew, The Rainway, Program Notes and The Yakuza. These are historically informative and make for an interesting read after viewing the film.

The other bonus features offered are the original trailer, a trailer for Gosha’s film The Geisha, an interactive map, and Image Gallery with both color and black and white images.

While not the most plentiful of bonus features offered on a release, a decent selection of material to review after viewing the film.


Overall ( Not an Average) 7/10

The Review
The Movie 7.5/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 7/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10