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The Yakuza is a 1974 film directed by Sydney Pollack. (Retired) detective Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum) goes to Japan to help out an old friend, George Tanner (Brian Keith), who had been dealing with the Yakuza. The Yakuza had kidnapped his daughter and her boyfriend to coerce Tanner into a business deal.
Harry and Tanner's friendship goes back to World War II, when they served together as Marines in Japan. While in Japan, Harry had fallen in love with a local woman, Eiko, and helped save her sick daughter. Eiko's brother Ken was disgraced by his sister's relationship with a former enemy soldier and he disappeared into the yakuza underworld. However, since Ken owes a lifelong debt (called giri in the movie) to Harry, he reluctantly joins them to help rescue Tanner's daughter.
They successfully rescue the hostages, but in doing so they anger the yakuza and contracts on Ken and Harry's lives are issued. Harry refuses to abandon Ken and his family while their lives are in danger, defending them from yakuza attackers, but he eventually learns how much pain his presence in their lives has caused them. Despite this, Ken and Harry overcome their differences, helped by Harry's openness to Japanese tradition.
The film emphasizes Japanese tradition and honor among the yakuza, and remarkably has two Yubitsume scenes.
If you went to this page hoping for a page describing the yakuza, sorry. It's here.
This Film provides examples of:
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Tanner's daughter is kidnapped by the yakuza as leverage for a deal
- Asian Baby Mama: Harry is not Hanako's biological father, but he acts like her adoptive one.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Ken and Kilmer vs. yakuza goons
- Culture Clash
- Disposable Women
- Duel to the Death: In a film about honor, inevitable.
- Face Heel Turn: Tanner betrays Kilmer
- Hardboiled Detective: Only Bogart could do better than Mitchum here.
- Honor Before Reason
- It's Personal: See Sacrificial Lion
- Katanas Are Just Better
- Lawful Neutral: Goro's role is pretty much defined as being this, as an impartial yakuza legal counselor. He can give advice based on the yakuza's honor code, but can't take any action himself.
- Love Triangle: See The Reveal
- Mighty Whitey: Averted in that it's a large part of the film that Harry has to work to understand Japanese values and culture and needs Ken as a guide. And by the time the final battle rolls around, it's clearly Ken's fight and Harry is his support.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Kilmer at The Reveal, and Ken when he accidentally kills his nephew in the final battle
- Pillars of Moral Character: Giri is explicitly mentioned, though the others are important too.
- Oh Crap (to go with My God, What Have I Done?)
- Retired Badass
- The Reveal: Kilmer gets some new perspective on the film's backstory. Eiko is not actually Ken's sister, but his wife.
- Sacrificial Lion: Hanako
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Kilmer had brought a rookie as his partner, who is badly injured in the battle with the yakuza. The film does not say whether he was killed or returned to America.
- He was killed. He was stabbed through the chest with a katana, what do you think happened to him!?