Director: Kosaku Yamashita
Notable Cast: Junko Fuji (Sumiko Fuji), Ken Takakura, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kyosuke Machida,
Also known as: Lady Yakuza: The Red Peony Gambler
After finishing up the Raizo Ichikawa era of the Sleepy Eyes of Death franchise, it was time for us to look for a new series of action films to cover. Looking through emails and messages, one series stood out as both highly requested and intriguing, The Red Peony Gambler series. It wasn’t my intent to leap from one massive franchise to the next (this one features 8 films) but the idea of a ninkyo eiga or chivalrous yakuza film, based on a woman gambler from the classic era perked my interest. There were a lot of ways for the franchise to take this concept. With this first entry, simply titled The Red Peony Gambler, the series kicks off in a strong way, utilizing its layered characters and gender-focused thematic weight in some surprising ways. It delivers a thoughtful ninkyo eiga where heroism is never quite what it seems and a string of seemingly untethered events tie together. It’s a sharply written and well-executed film that easily ignites the franchise. Just judging by the first entry, no wonder this series was highly requested for coverage.