The Yakuza Wives

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“Could comfortably kick the asses of The Mob Wives.”

Perhaps a better title, however, would be Yakuza Sister, since this is a tale of two siblings. Tamaki (Iwashita) is an actual mid-level Yakuza wife, who is running their branch of the gang in the jailed absence of her husband, and doing quite well at it, enhancing its size and reputation. She is largely estranged from both her sister Makoto (Kitase) and their father – she’s a bartender, he works in his machine shop, but it’s clear from the get-go that his time is limited [this isn’t much of a spoiler when you see him coughing his lungs out while simultaneously chain-smoking]. Two things upset their semi-orderly lives. The overall head of Tamaki’s clan dies, opening up a power vacuum which sets off a struggle between rival factions, and Tamaki attempts to arrange a ‘suitable’ marriage for her sister. Makoto rebels, taking up instead with Kiyoshi Sugita (Sera) – which is unfortunate, because he’s a loyal member of the faction now battling Tamaki’s group for control.

The first in a long-running series of films, both direct sequels and knock-offs of the basic concept, this is somewhere between The Godfather and a soap-opera. Among the things I apparently learned from this were, that in Japan, organized crime syndicates have press-conferences to detail leadership changes, and that the best way to get a Japanese women to marry you, is to rape her. Who knew? [Legal note: does not make any claims regarding the reliability of this information, and accepts no responsibility for any damages, prosecutions or severed digits resulting from acting on it.] It’s a bit of an uncomfortable mix, but the steely-gaze of Iwashita and her character’s single-minded dedication to the cause is impeccable: she’s a better female character than anyone in Coppola’s trilogy.

Things head towards their expected tragic outcome, but there are a few twists along the way, as well as an interesting cat-fight between the two sisters, when Makoto opts for her husband over her family. About five minutes in duration, there’s only about three cuts as they brawl their way around the apartment, in and out of the closet, before collapsing, exhausted. If not exactly a martial-arts epic, it’s an interesting stylistic choice, quite unlike anything else I’ve seen, and is presented for your viewing below. If a little low on the action quotient outside of this, it’s a solid piece of drama that should keep the spectator interested.

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