New York Times - 03/20/1975
"...The effect is surprising....Break[s] ground with a new audience..."
Sydney Pollack directed this action drama in which a Yakuza boss has kidnapped the daughter of a shipping executive named George Tanner, believing that he has cheated him in a gun deal. Tanner (Brian Keith) enlists the aid of his old army buddy, Harry Kilmer (Robert Mitchum), to go to Japan and rescue his child. However, things are not exactly what they seem, as Harry discovers when he attempts to infiltrate the notorious unfamiliar world of the Japanese mafia.
Written by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne and directed by Sydney Pollack, THE YAKUZA is the exciting, violent tale of the attempt to rescue a young girl from Japanese gangsters. When shipping executive George Tanner (Brian Keith) discovers that his daughter has been kidnapped, he calls upon an old army buddy. Former private eye Harry Kilmer knows a lot about Japan, as well as a lot about the Yakuza, the gangsters who keep an iron grip on Japan's gambling, sleaze, and protection rackets. Kilmer realizes there's a right way and a wrong way to approach the brutal underworld. And he knows that in terms of power, there's only one thing mobsters everywhere respect: greater power. Robert Mitchum portrays Kilmer in this bone-jarring East-West collision. Released prior to BLACK RAIN, the film spearheaded the genre as the first American picture to weave the old and the new Japan into a tightly knit action story. Adding to its authenticity is costar Takakura Ken, the "Japanese Clint Eastwood" and a kingpin of his nation's Yakuza film genre. Through Takakura the values that form the centuries-deep bonds of the Nippon underworld are revealed.
The song "Only the Wind" was composed by Grammy winner Dave Grusin.
At the beginning of the film is the following explanation: "The Yakuza began life in Japan over 350 years ago as gamblers, con men and shady merchants at traveling fairs. They were also said to have protected the poor of the towns and countryside from bands of marauding noblemen. This, they apparently did with matchless skill and courage. To this day it is said the Yakuza abide by a code of honor as rigorous as the samurai code of bushido."