Graveyard Of Honour (Miike) (2002)

Directed by
Less interesting than Fukasaku's original
Reviewed by Simon on 2021-10-05

Goro Kishitani plays Rikuo Ishimatsu, a barman who saves a Yakuza boss from a hitman one night and is given a position in the family as a reward, until a misunderstanding leads to him becoming a fugitive from his own clan.

Takashi Miike's remake of the 1975 Kinji Fukasaku film of the same name transplants the story to the 1980's, gives the main character a slightly different name and no longer claims to be based on true events, but it follows the same basic plot.

Miike's Graveyard Of Honour has less to say than Fukasaku's version and takes a lot longer to say it. Instead of using a character study to deliver a scathing rebuke of the Yakuza's professed code of honour, Miike depicts them as being a largely honourable bunch, painting Ishimatsu as an aberration - even then it offers a series of misunderstandings to explain or excuse his behaviour. Where Tetsuya Watari's Rikio Ishikawa remained an enigma, a mystery we will never solve, Goro Kishitani's Rikuo Ishimatsu is more humanised, maybe even sympathetic (if still a touch rapey).

The result is a more generic Yakuza movie that lacks the frenetic chaos or the social critique Fukasaku brought. The original had something to say about the conditions in post-war Japan that allowed bastards like Rikio Ishikawa to flourish, but other than a passing mention of Japan's bubble economy bursting the remake shows little interest in the wider society in which it is set (other than to savour the neon glow of Tokyo's Kabukicho district).

Thankfully Goro Kishitani's hypnotic performance makes up for a lot of the film's shortcomings, he really goes all in on the character, and there are a few of those trademark quirky Miike Moments to make things a bit more interesting. Overall it's a fairly weak entry in his filmography though.