Cited by some critics as an influential film for many of Japan’s contemporary filmmakers, Kinji Fukasaku’s 1973 film is a bloody gangster epic a la GoodFellas (1990). Essentially, Battles is an often confusing series of skirmishes between rival gangsters as one man tries to rise above it all. Fukasaku employs many of the cinematic techniques that have since become commonplace in much of Asian cinema: over-the-top melodrama mixed with hand-held camera action sequences that are simultaneously exciting and disorienting. While the action sequences are fast and furious, the multitude of characters makes the film hard to follow at times. That is, until the characters start dying in rapid succession and process of elimination allows you to figure out who’s left.
The film is also betrayed by its clash of ’50s period detail with the cast’s all-too obvious perchance for ’70s style and fashion sense. Battles is a nasty bit of ultraviolence conveniently enveloped in a story obsessed with personal honour. One look at this film and it becomes readily apparent how it influenced filmmakers like John Woo.
Another five years have passed, and I’m here to take issue with both the review and with Mark Strong’s comment above.
It is indeed incorrect to say that the movie is “a la Goodfellas” not just because it was released seventeen years earlier, but also because it’s neither in the manner nor in the style of Goodfellas. They are both movies set in a milieu of organized crime, but apart from this they are in no ways similar: the settings, the storylines, the mise en scene etc are all very different. It seems that the reviewer reached all the way to the first mob movie he could think of and compared it to that. That isn’t a good “anchor for comparison,” it’s lazy.
Strong’s comment states that “the film was reviewed in 1998, likely for a DVD release at that time.” Wrong again, I’m afraid. This movie was not released in an English-friendly home format until 2004. In any case, the movie was indeed first released in 1973 and the 1998 release date listed is just plain wrong. The R-rating is also wrong, as the movie has never been certified by the MPAA. It looks to me like this review was submitted from a template and these details were never changed. This doesn’t surprise me given the laziness of the review itself, which is about as unhelpful a piece of movie writing as I have encountered.
This review is 12 years old. You admit to having not seen the film, yet already disagree with the review? REALLY!?!
The film may have come out in 1973, but the film was reviewed in 1998, likely for a DVD release at that time. The review mentions that the film was released in 1973 in the first sentence.
“A la” actually means “in the manner or style of,” and while it may be chronologically wrong to say this film was presented in the style of “Goodfellas,” it does not mean the reference is not valid, specifically for an audience that has no doubt already seen “Goodfellas” due to is mainstream popularity (or at least heard of it) and therefore that is a better anchor for comparison than something they perhaps haven’t seen.
Gah. I cannot help but try and tear your review apart..even though i’ve yet to see this film. (I just bought it anyway)…however…you comment on the ‘off’ sense of fashion. I’d hope the characters would have a taste for clothes made in the 1970’s…as it was released in 1973. Yeah. I say you should watch this film again, or perhaps watch the correct film…then submit another review. If you have the metal repackaging, check out the tree that helps you figure out the character line up…who kills who…etc. I really think you just wrote this film off prematurely. Give it one more chance, and write a proper review instead of a short paragraph.
Oh, and one more thing. The film is not rated.
I think you misused the term ‘a la’. it means in reference to. Goodfellas came out more or less two decades after this film. If anything, Goodfellas is a la Battles without honor and humanity. You even have the wrong year for when it was released…which is 1973. Are you sure you watched the right movie?