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The Independent Critic

Akira Kobayashi, Jô Shishido, Hideaki Nitani, Meiko Kaji
Yasuharu Hasebe
94 Mins.
Arrow Video
Limited Edition Blu-ray (3000 copies only);Restored High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation, on Blu-ray for the first time in the world;Original uncompressed mono PCM audio;Newly translated English subtitles;Brand new interview with star Jô Shishido;Interview with renowned critic and historian Tony Rayns;Original theatrical trailer;Gallery featuring rare promotional images;Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan;Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp, newly illustrated by Ian MacEwan and featuring original archive stills

 "Retaliation" Released on DVD/Blu-ray by Arrow Video 
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Jiro (Akira Kobayashi) is an ex-convict who comes back to the street after eight years to discover that the gang to which he remains loyal has nearly disbanded - only the aging boss remains. Desperate to help the ex-boss, he approaches the Hasama family for assistance. He is offered a job to settle a dispute between two gangs in an up-and-coming manufacturing city. If he completes the task, he will be given control over the land. Jiro heads to the city to accomplish the task accompanied by six outlaws summoned by Hasama, but when Hasama suddenly backs out of the deal Jiro is driven to desperate measures.

A follow-up to the Yakuza hit Massacre Gun, Retaliation is a 1969 film given new life by U.K.-based Arrow Video with this exceptionally well constructed Blu-ray/DVD release with a wealth of extras including interviews, writings, and archival gems.

Retaliation is, at least to this critic, a notch above many of the films even if it was a precursor to the Fukasaku films that would in many ways define the genre's top years. The film is fast-paced and hard-boiled in its action with an abundance of violence, a sense of true grittiness, and yet a style that sweeps you up into everything that unfolds. The film also is a lot more than your usual straightforward yakuza flick with its occasional plot twists n' turns and some underlying story work that isn't often found in this genre.

There's a cynicism in Retaliation also isn't commonly found in this type of film, though it's interesting to watch that cynicism unfold in both the interpersonal relationships and the cultural shifting that unfolds. This Japan is on the cusp of major changes, changes that are resisted by the old guard and changes that ultimately drive the conflict for Jiro and the film's central conflicts.

In addition to the fine ensemble performances, D.P. Muneo Ueda's lensing is creative and complex adding layers to a film that works on both an emotional and intellectual level.

As usual, Arrow Video has assembled fine packaging and gives Retaliation the style and respect it deserves.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic