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The PI Plays the Thugs Against Each Other

by Tony Nash

(A Part of Yakuza & Crime)

(All opinions are of the author alone)

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Kutabare Akuto-Domo: Tantie Jimusho 23 (Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! /Go to Hell Bastards!: Detective Bureau 2-3) PG-13 (1963) ****

Jo Shishido: Hideo Tajima/Ichiro Tanaka (as Joe Shishido)

Tamio Kawaji: Manabe

Reiko Sassamori: Chiaki

Nobuo Kaneko: Inspector Kumagai

Kinzo Shin: Boss Hatano

Naomi Hoshi: Sally

Asao Sano: Father Tanaka

Yuko Kusunoki: Misa

Kotoe Hatsui: Irie

Hiroshi Hijikata: Horiuchi

Written by: Iwao Yamazaki, based on the novel by Haruhiko Oyabu

Directed by: Seijun Suzuki

Synopsis: Private Investigator Hideo Tajima offers to go undercover for the Tokyo Police to figure out who’s behind a rash of smuggling operations. Realizing this group is forcing two Yakuza mobs into consistent shoot-outs, Tajima decides to bring down both the smugglers and the Yakuza groups. Along the way he falls in love with the scarred mistress of the leader of the smugglers.

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Seijun Suzuki, the Japanese filmmaker who’d become most famous for his psychedelic cinematography of the Yakuza film genre, and later for his lawsuit against the corrupt execs at Nikkatsu studios, gives an early success with Detective Bureau 2-3. What makes the film an interesting early effort is that the hero is actually a private investigator, a rarity in the genre as the leads were usually gangsters trying to maintain their personal codes of ethics or a stoic police officer trying to maintain law and order. Much like with his later hit Youth of the Beast, Suzuki has the protagonist go undercover within the Yakuza to break the gangs up, only the former has an independent entity helping out the police in these actions. The adding of some romantic intrigue between the male lead and both the Yakuza Boss’ mistress and a childhood sweetheart gives the film some extra spice in the audience wondering if these emotions will complicate the investigation.  By playing up the recent economic boom of the 60’s in Japan and the subsequent dirty dealings of the Yakuza underworld to line their own pockets off the honest workers, Suzuki creates a nice mix of mystery and action that keeps the viewer interested and entertained.

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While Tajima has all the criminals wondering where his allegiance’s lie in the turf battles as he helps the cops rid Tokyo of some of the bad guys, this isn’t Suzuki’s take on Yojinbo. Yes, he’s looking to gain some publicity for his Private Investigation Agency, but he’s also a concerned citizen of Japan sick and tired of the Yakuza preying on the innocent and taking the hard earned money away from the middle class. What viewers get is a character who does something because it’s the right thing to do, but if he gets notoriety and money from it isn’t necessarily a bad bonus for his time and effort.

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Image result for detective bureau 2-3

Joe Shishido, one of Japan’s more interesting looking character actors/matinee idols, shines very brightly in the role of Tajima. While not overtly patriotic or completely selfless in his actions, Tajima is a man looking to put a dent in the criminal activity that disgrace the honor of Japan. Shishido plays the character with his usual fast talking and charming approach, which fits the character like a glove. As the character finds himself going deep into the inner workings of the smugglers, he realizes the harsh realities of the world and the complete unscrupulous nature of the mind of the criminal. Shishido also portrays well the respectful nature of the Japanese people. While he’s very direct and blunt with many of the people he meets, Tajima shows both the respect some of who he meets deserve, and also compassion and apologies to the one woman he knows needs to escape to be free. Shishido’s background in Japanese musicals come into play as the character asks his childhood sweetheart on the fly to help him out so his cover isn’t blown which leads to a well crafted and funny song and dance duet that allow the viewer to feel relaxed in an otherwise tense situation. Shishido also gets to display his physicality, doing the majority of his own stunts and fight scenes, gained from years of involvement in dance and theater.

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Image result for detective bureau 2-3

A nice irony within the film is the showcasing of Japanese Christians. Tajima, while undercover with the alias Ichiro Tanaka, tells one of the leaders of the smugglers that he’s a devout Catholic and the son of a born again priest. This ruse leads to Tajima having to create a situation with the aid of a local priest to help his cover look legitimate. With Japan being known mostly for the Buddhist and Shinto faiths, it’s quite interesting to see some of the country embracing aspects of Western observances. Even though its an irony, it’s a nice little touch to the film as it showcases Japan’s diversity and openness to the many different aspects of life.

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A little different in the Yakuza genre in that the protagonist is neither a gangster or a policeman, this new take with the genre adds spice and interest in how the film will play out. Mixing thrills, intrigue, suspense, and action, Detective Bureau 2-3 is an entertaining little film from a director right before his successful mix of interesting cinematography and lighting.

(I highly recommend the film for its nice mix of action, suspense, and even a little comedy. A fairly straightforward plot, the film offers nice camera angles and shots, 2 ro 3 dimensional characters that fit the kind of people one would encounter in real life, allowing for sympathy and connection, and of course fine set pieces. Arrow Video does another fantastic job with the restoration and clean up of the film, offering quality audio, subtitles, and visuals that make the film pop and come alive.  Not as deep, complex, or artistic as later efforts of the genre, the film still offers thrills and action, and even takes a look at a growing concern of the public’s during the post war period.)

All images courtesy of Images and their respective owners

for more information

IMDB/Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!

Wikipedia/Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!

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Filed under: Film: Analysis/Overview, Film: Special Topics, Uncategorized

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