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One of maverick Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku's (Battle Royale, Cops vs. Thugs) "darkest thug-operas" (The Village Voice), Yakuza Graveyard is a gritty, brutally violent action film, a mature, poetic achievement in personal filmmaking, and a trenchant x-ray of xenophobic post-war Japanese society.

Tormented by guilt and embroiled in a literal dead-end affair with a woman he widowed in the line of duty, renegade Detective Kuroiwa (Tetsuya Watari -- Tokyo Drifter) is the one-man definition of "rogue cop." When his corrupt superiors assign Kuroiwa to the organized crime beat, they inadvertently pull the pin on a gun-toting human hand-grenade. Violating his "hands-off" orders, Kuroiwa plunges fists first into the Nishida gang yakuza underworld. And when he meets Keiko (70s Japanese action film icon Meiko Kaji -- Lady Snowblood, Female Prisoner Scorpion), the beautiful half-Korean wife of an imprisoned Nishida boss, Kuroiwa finds himself risking much more than just his badge. Outlaw cop and gang-moll become both lovers and unwitting pawns in a brazen, police-sanctioned yakuza power-grab conspiracy. As Kuroiwa is forced to choose a side, the stage is set for betrayal, degradation and massacre.

A story of personal depravity, national racism, and romantic self-sacrifice, Yakuza Graveyard takes its place alongside Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses and Shohei Imamura's Vengenace Is Mine as one of the handful of spectacularly graphic and accomplished downward spiral films of 70s Japanese cinema. Kino makes this unjustly overlooked masterpiece available for the first time on US DVD.

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KI4672 Yakuza Graveyard DVD (1976/Kinji Fukasaku) $14.95 $12.49