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After his final job as a Yakuza hit man, Tetsu the Silver Fox is attached by his last victim's bodyguard. Coming to his rescue is Kenji, Tetsu's younger, peaceful brother. In the fray, Kenji kills a yakuza and the two flee to Manchuria. Hounded by the police and the yakuza, the two brothers find work with a construction firm until they can no longer hide their identities. A classic of the famed Nikkatsu action genre, "Tattooed Life" climaxes in an all-out orgy of revenge and style.
Brothers, one a yakuza, kill bad guys...brothers flee...brothers find job in village...bad yakuza show up...big battle...unrequited love...death...maybe redemption.
Not much more than this, although the story is told in a well-crafted linear style that keeps things moving and one's interest up. The acting is a bit broad but okay. The relationships, such as they are, between the younger brother and an older woman is touching, and between the older yakuza brother (Tetzu) and the younger sister is amusing. The climactic battle between Tetzu and the dozens of bad yakuza is fast, dramatic and surprisingly non-gory considering all the sword slashing going on. There is, however, a fair amount of self-conscious directorial flourishes about the movie that, to my mind, detract from the film.
The movie and the director, unfortunately, are burdened by two pages of analysis by someone named Ray Pride, who calls the film a "pre-postmodern B-movie smash-pow quickie." He goes on and on. Examples..."Volatile and unpredictable, ever aware of the geometry of frame and editing, the director works with headlong assurance, fueling the usually pungent yet quietly absurdist Suzukian view of love, hope and honor." Or "Suzuki propels (Tetzu) past a mad succession of shoji screens and sliding doors -- mustard, white, beige, inscribed with clouds -- a feverish dream worthy of the bold impudence of Jerry Lewis' Ladies' Man..." No movie deserves this kind of treatment.
Not bad, not good. Probably won't watch it again. The DVD transfer is very good.