Sight and Sound - 04/01/1994
"...One of the most brilliant genre movies ever made..."
A.V. Club - 01/11/2012
"[W]hat sets the film apart from countless others telling a similar tale are the lengths Suzuki goes to in order to make each scene a feast for the eyes." -- Grade: A-
Maverick Japanese director Suzuki turns the traditional "yakuza" gangster film on its ear with this stylish, intentionally oblique tale of a gangster whose maddening dependence on long-obsolete honor codes spurs rivals and even his own bosses to hunt him down.
To experience a film by Japanese B-movie visionary Seijun Suzuki is to experience Japanese cinema in all its frenzied, voluptuous excess. In 1966, the studio ordered Suzuki to tow the line with what was intended to be a routine potboiler about a recently retired Yakuza.The result was this thrilling fantasia in which the hero Tetsu tries to go straight but is thwarted by his formal rivals every step of the way. Like other ignored Japanese directors of his wartime generation, Suzuki took refuge from Japan's militarism in a doctrine of mutability. He had lived amid annihilation and it was necessary to view oneself objectively, even to the point where mutability appeared pathetic and humorous at the same time. It was even necessary to discover a certain masochistic pleasure in the abnormal experience that shook one's core, which is why this film, like many of his best, resembles a masochistic cartoon.