Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell Bastards/Review

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Detective Bureau 2-3 is the story of a town infested by two rivaling yakuza clans. Everything is business as usual until a rogue third faction arrives and starts stealing from both clans. The police land a break when they arrest a middle man from one of the clans. This middle man, whose name I cannot remember off hand, is seriously up shit creek. His own clan suspects he might have talked to police and the other clan…they naturally hate him but also suspect him of being part of the rogue squad. The cops see a golden opportunity to position a man inside one of the clans, but worry that none of their men will blend in enough to be accepted into the ranks. Enter Jo Shishido, who plays the owner/editor/head investigator of a despicable gossip rag/detective agency (huh?). Jo offers to infiltrate the yakuza for a shit ton of money. Since he’s a law enforcement officer, in a real six degrees kind of way and probably the best chance they have, the police agree. Will Jo succeed to in bringing down the yakuza? Will we live long enough to spend his 50,000 yen fee?

Watching films like Branded To Kill, Tokyo Drifter, & A Colt Is My Passport will paint a portrait of Nikkatsu as high art. With all of those films either already released or soon to be released on Criterion, you may think that they were all intended to make the audience ponder the deeper perplexities of the human condition. Fuck no! Those films are actually very atypical of the studio itself. This was a studio that cranked out film after film after film in true 42nd Street fashion. These were films designed to appeal to the absolute lowest common denominator and sell popcorn and theme song recordings. It was purely commercial with only a few exceptions; the aforementioned films being those exceptions. It cracks me up that Branded to Kill is considered art house when it was merely Suzuki’s attempt to get fired by making the craziest, most depraved anti-Nikkatsu film he could. Anyway, Detective Bureau 2-3 is the first Nikkatsu film I’ve ever seen that exemplifies the standard Nikkatsu fare….and I still loved it.

This film was like watching a Japanese pulp novel. It’s a story ripped off the pages of Chandler or Hammett with evil gangsters, scantily clad women with questionable morals, violence, carnage, sex, and drinking. Shishido’s character (in the Sam Spade detective role) is definitely an anti-hero who is only in it for the cash which is totally in keeping with pulp fiction. The whole everybody-double-crossing-everybody element of the film was again a tribute to the great pulp stories and, given it was completely devoid of pretense, was immensely fun to watch. The gangster/informer tangled web was crafted with great care and felt very much like a more modern crime film like Infernal Affairs. I liked watching Jo work the system and the gangsters at the same time and being too cool for either side.

God, Jo Shishido is amazing in this! Like you would expect if you’ve seen him in any of the other entries, Jo is as cool as a cucumber in Miles Davis’ fridge. I love that he is a total fucking scumbag; a nice contrast to his character in A Colt Is My Passport who is an honorable, samurai-like hitman (his character in Branded to Kill was definitely an asshole but this seems even scummier). His tabloid makes money blackmailing celebrities on whom they get scoops which made me laugh heartily. He just has that go-fuck-yourself attitude that makes you love him but when push comes to shove, he can sling the lead like nobody’s business. Not only that, but in this film we actually see Jo Muthafuckin Shishido sing and dance! Oh yeah, in another inescapable Nikkatsu take on French New Wave, there are quite a few scenes in bars with jazz music. In one particular scene Jo gets up and does a number with his girlfriend that is a whole lot of fun. The song is kind of catchy (would be more so if I spoke Japanese) and he is playing it up for laughs in the best possible way. I never thought I would see the day when Jo did musicals but there we are.

I loved how gonzo the big shoot outs were; trucks full of yakuza shooting at one another and other yakuza pulling swords in the presence of guns because they are just plain fearless. This movie opens with one of the best Nikkatsu action sequences I have ever seen. It launches right in with little warning, and the guns blaze unabated until almost everyone is dead. Then of course there are explosions to kick off the credits. There were a couple of scenes like this. I loved the scene where a truck near a garage entrance creates a bottleneck and line after line of yakuza are just mowed down by gunfire. It was like something out of a zombie film because they just kept coming.

Although this is very different from the previously available work of Suzuki, he definitely leaves his mark on it. Almost every character in this film is a total bastard when it comes to how they treat women. Suzuki’s characters often tend to be a tad on the misogynistic side (just a tad) and this movie features several brutal moments. This is a theme Suzuki has touched on before, but one could make the case that its inclusion in this film is to enhance the pulp feel. There is also a color saturation in this that was also featured in Tokyo Drifter. Sexual deviance is another of Suzuki’s motifs that show up here. There is a character in this film who has to pretend his girlfriend has been cheating on him and knock her around before they can have sex. It is very reminiscent of Shishido’s character in Branded To Kill who is aroused by sniffing rice. Suzuki, from an interview with Jo Shishido that I read, was kind of a freak about sex and that comes through here. But as I stated, this is early, more-studio pleasing Suzuki so it’s far more action-packed with way less substance.

I loved this Nikkatsu entry and I am very thankful to KINO for releasing it. It was so much fun and, although different from what I’ve seen so far, very indicative of how Nikkatsu made bank in the 1960’s. I can’t wait to watch the other KINO release: 3 Seconds Before Explosion.

Review by Casper Von Sidecar

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