BFI London Film Festival: Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen

Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen (Ryuzo to Shichinin no Kobuntachi)
Directed by Takeshi Kitano
Starring Tatsuya Fuji, Ben Hiura and Kôjun Itô

by Joanna Orland

I’m a sucker for a good Takeshi Kitano film, and Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen combines his two greatest assets – yakuza battles and over-the-top quirky comedy.

Ryuzo (Fuji) is an old retiree, living with his son’s family under his son’s rule.  He longs for the days when things were happening for him, when he was part of the yakuza.  But the yakuza are no more in this world – all having died out or aged past the point of usefulness.  And here we have the perfect Japanese old geezer comeback movie premise!

When Ryuzo’s son takes the family on holiday, Ryuzo is left at home to his own devices.  Being victimized by a younger gang targeting the elderly through phone scams, Ryuzo’s fires are stoked and he gets the old gang back together.  Life hasn’t necessarily been kind to the old gang who arrive full of flatulence and physical ailments.  No matter what their state, the former yakuza members are happy to be back together to be given a second chance at finding a purpose in life, to be useful again in their old age rather than be a burden or a victim.  They immediately devise a system to determine who their new leader will be, leading to the title Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen.

The plot is irrelevant as it’s the characters who are the main interest, and the comedic behaviours they bring with them.  Cultural differences don’t seem to be that strong when it comes to the elderly comeback film genre.  The conventions are comfortably played out as expected in Ryuzo’s story, although the style of delivery and sense of humour are more in the style of Takeshi Kitano than other classic old man comeback films.  The man himself has even put his signature on Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen with his usual cameo appearance, in this case as a cop who used to have beef with the yakuza of yesteryear.

A fun and quirky old man comeback comedy, Ryuzo and His Seven Henchmen has satisfied my annual craving for a new Takeshi Kitano film.


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