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Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Police Tactics – Review

by Dane Benko

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As Japan gears up for the 1964 Olympic games, the cops start to crack down under pressure from the public and the press, adding a new dimension in the war for power among the yakuza families of Hiroshima. Takeda tries to keep a lid on things, but hotheaded underlings create chaos, with one boss whacked in neutral territory and the craven boss, Uchimoto, informing on an assassination attempt by his own minions. While the police round up hundreds of yakuza foot soldiers, Shozo Hirono plots to finally take out longtime nemesis, boss Yamamori.

In the previous film, Proxy Wars, the police finally stand up to the Yakuza in one scene that feels like they have become a rival family themselves. A drive-by shooting in Kure excites the citizen populace to speak out against Yakuza violence in their streets. This installment of the franchise leaps into its mad dash through Yakuza politics with that fact as a backdrop.

An economic surge has allowed Japan to regain its feet and new leadership in the government is supporting citizen outcry against the Yakuza, making the fractal battles of the previous installments now more delicate to pull off from the leadership perspective. Unfortunately, a new generation of grunts has joined and gotten over the first barriers of power, and are ready for action. As the elders politic and war brims over the rivalries created in Proxy Wars, the street thugs are more than happy to take the initiative and incite violence. These spats can be seen as extensions of the anxiety of the elders as they have to deal with cleaning up their rivalries on one front, and the increasing pressure of society for them on the other.

Unfortunately, Hirono is at his most fed up. As a solid rock that observed Yakuza code, he was leaned on and manipulated too much over the eighteen years the series has so far covered, and Hiroshima and Kure are almost completely cut off from each other, creating financial stress that the police are only too happy to manipulate. He is now ready to kill Yamamori himself despite all of the resistance from his allies to break code in that manner, and the initiative that these allies have is thwarted by the police long enough for Yamamori to project his poisonous sugary tentacles and muck everything up all over again.

Hirono attempts to gain the help of Okajiwa, boss of the Gisei group, a new group to the series. Okajiwa represents neutrality, and he decides to join in on the fight under the impression that he will be able to mediate a truce. Other mediators offer themselves behind the scenes, but with backstabbing characters like Yamamori and Uchimoto still in play, obviously anybody’s attempts to do anything right are going to be thwarted by either flakiness or backstabbing. This time around, however, it’s not even a matter of family versus family but inter-family treachery. Uchimoto is even willing to sell out his own grunts, not even for a specific gain, but for the mere deluded hope for a 20millon yen loan.

The street fight that results sends the media and public to the streets and puts Hirono under constant surveillance by the police, who eventually arrest him on a pretext and then go after the family bosses.

What’s interesting about all these elements is that this Police Tactics finds the fall of the various Yakuza to be just as empty and violence driven as their rise in previous pictures. The series has now started creating a sort of arc, and the area under the arc is hallow. Police Tactics no longer seems to allude cheekily to the Yakuza’s affect on wider Japanese society but brings wider Japanese society as players into the Yakuza’s downfall, all after it is inferred from previous installments that the Yakuza managed to insinuate themselves behind the businesses, industries, and political interests of wider Japan. Now that grasp is fading and of course, it’s series hero Shozo Hirono who ends up losing the most, like he does in every incarnation of the series thus far.

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Author: Dane Benko

Dane is an independent filmmaker and freelancer in Albuquerque, NM. Japanese cinema is a particular fascination of his.

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