Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen – elderly gangsters rule in Takeshi Kitano’s comedy

Old-school yakuza take on young gangsters and the modern world

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 December, 2015, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 December, 2015, 8:00pm

A motley crew of elderly gangsters come out of retirement to fend off boredom in Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen, a slight but engaging yakuza comedy by Takeshi Kitano. By combining his two signature genres, the Japanese writer, editor and director has crafted a silly yet affectionate movie about old geezers who don’t realise the world has long moved on without them.

Taking the lead is iconic actor Tatsuya Fuji, who played his fair share of gangsters half a century ago before going on to star in Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (1976) and Empire of Passion (1978). Here he plays Ryuzo, a former yakuza boss who must curb his old instincts to avoid embarrassing his ordinary white-collar son (Masanobu Katsumura).

Once he brushes off several thugs from a modern-day gang headed by a self-proclaimed businessman (Ken Yasuda), however, Ryuzo decides with his right-hand man Masa (Masaomi Kondo) to reunite their old crew and take back their turf. But this is no Seven Samurai: painfully oblivious to their own fragility, these once-formidable gangsters can now barely stand up straight.

Though his protagonists are more susceptible to phone scammers than the indignity of succumbing to any younger rival gang, Kitano is careful not to turn the film into a straight-up parody. His cameo as a sympathetic veteran cop lends an extra dash of poignancy to this gentle farce, which indulges in the geriatric crooks’ former glories for all their darkly comedic potential.

Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen opens on December 3