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.