Sunday 10 August 2014

Take Aim at the Police Van [1960]

A Nikkatsu Noir, qualified as such by Criterion because this was one of many such low-budget crime thrillers produced by Japan’s Nikkatsu Studio during the 50s and 60s in order to compete with American and French films in the box-office, Take Aim at the Police Van was one of Suzuki’s earlier films, even though he’d made over a dozen films by then. Though not considered among his best works, this crisp, kinetic, moody and unpredictable little film did pack in enough wallop to make this an entertaining ride. The story begins with what the title makes amply clear – a police van, carrying a bunch of criminals and led by prison guard Tamon (Michitaro Mizushima), is ambushed by unknown assailants that lead to couple of murders, the escape of a small-time hoodlum who’d been anticipating the ambush and suspension for the prison guard. Tamon, unable to digest the disgrace, takes the onus of connecting the dots and solving the crime, and this leads him right into the middle of the netherworld of murderous gangsters engaged in flesh trade, and a dangerous affair with the powerful and beautiful femme fatale Yuko (Misako Watanabe). The film proceeded as a mix of gangster, noir and whodunit, as Tamon gets deeper into Tokyo’s seedy underbelly. The dour-faced Mizushima, with Marlowe’s grit and relentlessness but without the acerbic cynicism, led this slight but solid, deftly photographed caper to its violent climax, with enough twists and turns to keep the viewers thoroughly engaged. The film also provided an interesting exposition on Suzuki’s formative years on his way to becoming a daring filmmaker.

Director: Seijun Suzuki
Genre: Thriller/Crime Thriller/Gangster/Post-Noir
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan


Alex DeLarge said...

I wrote about this one last year or so. I think I like it just a bit more than you do, but agree Suzuki's best is yet to come!

Shubhajit said...

Yes, indeed!