Author: msroz from United States
29 September 2015
"Shikingen g˘datsu" (1975), also known as "Gambling Den Heist", is a superior crime film and neo-noir from Kinji Fukasaku, tightly written by K˘ji Takada. This film is simply one not to be missed by anyone interested in films like this from any perspective.
The protagonist is a yakuza named "Takeshi" (Kin'ya Kita˘ji) who is fresh out of prison after doing 8 years for a brutal murder. The pervasive themes of the story are the quest for big money, the strength of individual striving and selfishness, and the precarious nature of (temporary) alliances, trust and loyalties. Takeshi has learned in prison that a person can rely on no one but himself. He and others behave this way, so that their cooperation has limits that keep eroding and sometimes shatter, with duplicity coming to the fore.
Takeshi is met at the prison gate by a senior clan member ("Brother") and his own wife, who visited him very infrequently (3 times) and who has been Brother's mistress. This already establishes the broken codes of honor and trust that pervade the story.
With two recruits ("Tetsuya" and "Old Man") Takeshi engineers a huge robbery (350 million yen) of his own and another clan at a big gambling event they are holding. The clan leaders call in a private eye to find the robbers. He becomes an interested party. After he locates Tetsuya, chain reactions of plotting and counter-plotting set in, all logical in view of the rapidly altering situations that the players face. The story is a delight.
Amid the competition and serious striving, with its outbreaks of violence, the tone of the film quite often is playful, spirited and humorous. The action is sometimes staged with dashes of humor and a degree of unreality. The film definitely does not weight us down with heavy seriousness in all respects. Setbacks are greeted with a variety of reactions. A certain amount of overplaying and seriocomic buffoonery from Tetsu and Old Man are part of this, but even Takeshi seems to be enjoying himself at times. The private eye character also joins in the competition.
Fukasaku typically directs with zest and energy. This story is complex enough to hold us in suspense the whole way without being hard to follow.