Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen
Original Title: 龍三と七人の子分たち
Genre: Comedy, Crime
Director: Kitano Takeshi
Kitano Takeshi, or Beat Takeshi as he is also popularly known as, is a veteran when it comes to making yakuza flicks. Films such as Outrage and Brother are a testament to that. And being a comedian himself, Kitano knows how to create entertaining and humorous situations. Everything comes together in Ryuzo and the Seven Henchmen – a dark comedy about an old-time gangsters versus a younger generation of thugs.
The titular Ryuzo (Fuji Tatsuya) is an old time gangster who misses the old days. Flaunting his tattoos in public with pride, he is an embarassment to his son Ryuhei (Katsumura Masanobu) and his family. One day, he gets a call from con men out to extort money. They pretend to be the employers of Ryuhei, and they claim that he lost a lot of cash. They make an arrangement with Ryuzo to get compensation.
Ryuzo and a representative from the “company” meet at a nearby park. However, Ryuzo had also arranged to meet his old friend Masa (Kondo Masaomi), who smells something fishy about Ryuhei’s supposed employer, and starts to make threats. But things take an unexpected turn when Ryuzo, an old geezer with no money, offers to cut off a finger to compensate for the cash his son lost.
From that point on, Ryuzo and his old buddies have constant run-ins with the con men, who he learns are called Keihin Rengo. Ryuzo decides to teach these youngsters a lesson by starting a new yakuza family with seven of his closest buddies.
Fuji and the rest of the cast are charming and adorable (in a vicious way). Every member of Ryuzo’s gang is a senior citizen who will let nothing stand in their way of reliving the glory days. They way they all act around each other, it’s easy to believe that they have been buddies for decades.
The most entertaining point of the lead cast is that they act in the way typical grandpas do – confused with, unaffected by, and mostly unaware of the current world’s social norms. Yet, it’s unique in that everyone was once a yakuza, with numerous murders and other crimes to their name. It’s cute in an unsettling way. The characters in Ryuzo groan and complain about how youngsters these days don’t have manners just like our own grandparents, but then one glimpse of their elaborate tattoos makes us remember how dangerous they once were.
Kitano puts on a unique narrative. In Ryuzo, the protagonists are heroes only because the story is told through their eyes. In reality, they are just as bad as the con men they war against. Ryuzo and company carry on like how they were in the old days – use profainity and threats to get freebies, start fights on the street, and even flash their weapons in public. The story plays around with choosing one of two evils to cheer for, but because of how funny and cute Ryuzo and company are, it’s easy to choose them.
The story has all the makings of a Kitano flick. The director himself even has a minor role as a detective who is out to take down the Keihin Rengo.
The story is simple and light-hearted in a dark way. It being a gangster flick, expect deaths and violence, but expect to smile and giggle a lot more. Ryuzo is a film for fans of the gangster genre, as well as comedies. After watching this film, we hope you remember to always respect your elders!
Watch this film…
…if you like dark comedies and Beat Takeshi.