Using the classic yakuza crime-thriller Battles Without Honor and Humanity as a key text of inspiration, The Blood of Wolves tries to peddle tired cliches under the guise of being a ‘throwback.’ Veteran cop Shōgo Ōgami (Kōji Yakusho) is partnered with Hiroshima graduate Shūichi Hioka (Tori Matsuzaka) to solve a missing persons case that may have ties to the several crime syndicates who are currently battling it out for control of the region. The reckless behavior and outlaw attitude that Ōgami utilizes to solve the case — including having intercourse with a witness, instigating fights with suspects, and casually causing property damage — doesn’t sit well with rookie Hioka, who at first hates his elder, but eventually (in a surprise twist, not) learns that his senior colleague actually has a heart of gold and is totally worth the redemption arc the film forces on its audience.
There seemingly isn’t a single cliche from the gangster nor the buddy-cop genre that director Kazuya Shiraishi doesn’t regurgitate, while usually adding a hint of violence just to hide the lack of originality. In fact, there’s really nothing here that even attempts to differentiate The Blood of Wolves from its influences — just a lot of brutality that feels pointless in its intention and empty in its execution. Within the first ten minutes alone, a low-level thug is nearly beaten to death before having a fresh pile of steaming pig shit shoved down his throat — which hey, that’s a pretty readymade metaphor for anyone who has the misfortune of seeing this.
Published as part of New York Asian Film Festival 2018 | Dispatch 1.