It surprises me how some critics repeat each other about this being a yakuza film "against convention" due to its underlying sense of sadness. It's actually a return to tradition.
The classic ninkyo (chivalrous) type of yakuza-eiga (gangser movie) always had sorrowful heros with big sad eyes, who are drawn toward violence by an inescapable fate or a nihilistic chivarly. So if anything, director Takashi Miike has gone back to the heyday when violence wasn't portrayed as psychotic fun but as an unavoidable catastrophic tragedy.
The story imbedded in Yakuza Demon frankly isn't very good & the treatment is entirely conventional & not the equal of the classics starring such tragic-visaged beautiful men as Ken Takakura, Koji Tsuruta, or Ryo Ikebe. A more successful throw-back to the chivalrous yakuza films of the 1960s is Miike's Rainy Dog (1997).
But for anyone who already likes yakuza-eiga, this one's as entertaining as any of recent vintage. It's also a chance to see one of Japan's most charismatic direct-to-video stars (Riki Takeuchi, also in Miike's Dead or Alive trilogy) whose films are not otherwise in wide circulation in the west, a fellow very reminscent of a young Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl