Director: Keiichi Ozawa
Notable Cast: Tetsuya Watari, Chieko Matsubara, Izumi Ashikawa, Eimei Esumi, Jukei Fujioka, Shoki Fukae, Joji Hidehara, Seishiro Iwate, Meiko Kaji, Hatsuko Kawahara, Ichiro Kijima
To say that I was impressed with Outlaw Gangster VIP is to be putting it mildly. In essence, it’s one of the best yakuza films from that era that I’ve seen and it rises above its own formulaic moments to a sense of artfulness that genre films often sacrifice for the sake of entertainment. Outlaw Gangster VIP 2 looks to really run with the success of the original film by following a lot of the same blueprints. However, the film does suffer a bit from ‘carbon copy syndrome’ and things aren’t quite as effectively slick as they were the first time around. It’s still an entertaining (and hauntingly heartfelt) romp of yakuza action and drama worthy of a look from fans, but it’s not quite the one-two punch that knocked the wind out of me like the first one did. It’s a good movie that just misses out on being great.
Goro (Tetsuya Watari) has healed up from the wounds of his final show down with the yakuza boss and his intent is to be reunited with love Yukiko (Chieko Matsubara) in a small country side town. However, his dream of a normal life is cut short when their friend is in dire need of medicine and he loses his job at the local lumberyard. He’s pulled out of his yakuza retirement to help a growing clan in Tokyo for some quick cash for his family, but he soon finds himself in the same deadly situations as before.
The first act of Outlaw Gangster VIP 2 is awesome. I love the remote snowy setting of the country town and how the small time yakuza gang there butts heads with Goro, not knowing that he’s a legend known as Goro the Assassin. The rebuilding of the relationships from the first film, both from the two ladies that Goro set on a train at the end of the first film and a few connections that come off as surprises in the later portions of the film, really continues on the themes and heart that made the first one a rather in depth character driven experience. Goro continues to be an enigmatic character worthy of your attention, one that continually seems haunted by his own past, and Watari perpetually eats the scenery with his cold yet lovable demeanor. The addition of a couple of new subplots, one concerning a young woman (whom obviously reminds Goro of himself at times) and a new semi-villain/friend add a lot of intriguing new concepts to the standard yakuza plotting. In fact, their stories and how they unravel with Goro’s should have been the main plot as they are strong enough, but they nicely add substance to the film in their current form.
|Original poster art.|
Yet, Outlaw Gangster VIP 2 seems intent on recreating the same thrills as the first film and quickly the film falls into the formula for most of its run time. You’ll see a couple of thrilling knife fights, Goro’s new friends in the yakuza will be compromised, and it all eventually leads him to a one man stand against another yakuza boss that needs to be assassinated. Director Keiichi Ozawa doesn’t quite have the knack for adding in the tension and artistic merit that Masuda did for the original one and he seemingly goes by the numbers as the movie rolls on. When he does attempt to add in some style points – a volleyball game that’s intercut with the final knife fight – he stumbles a little to get it to flow and make sense on a symbolic level. Many of the same things that made the first VIP film so good are here, but they aren’t quite as tight or effective as the movie follows the formula in some predictable ways.
Outlaw Gangster VIP 2 is a good movie that might have been great if it was willing to strike more of its own path instead of following the same one as the first film. There is plenty to love here, including the characters, the continued love story between Goro and Yukiko, and some of the more heartfelt subplots, but the film tends to pale in comparison when it tries to recreate the same beats and moments from the first one with a director who is not quite as confident as Masuda was. In the end, Outlaw Gangster VIP 2 is a strong sequel, but not one that is nearly effective as it might have been.
ARROW VIDEO FEATURES:
- Limited Edition Box Set (3000 copies) containing all six films in the Outlaw series, available with English subtitles for the first time on any home video format
- High Definition digital transfers of all six films, from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original uncompressed mono audio
- Newly translated English subtitles
- Audio commentary on Outlaw: Gangster VIP by Jasper Sharp
- Visual essay covering the entire series by Kevin Gilvear
- Original trailers for all six films
- Extensive promotional image galleries for all six films
- Exclusive gatefold packaging featuring brand new artwork by Tonci Zonjic
- Booklet featuring an interview with director Toshio Masuda by Mark Schilling, plus new writing by Schilling, Chris D and Kevin Gilvear
Written By Matt Reifschneider