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Resurrection of the Golden Wolf
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |
Yusaku Matsuda
 
Year: 1979
Director: Toru Murakawa
Writer: Shuichi Nagahara, (based on a novel by Haruhiko Oyabu)
  Cast: Yusaku Matsuda, Jun Fubuki, Kei Sato, Mikio Narita, Asao Koike, Kojiro Kusanagi, Genji Kawai, Daiki Kato, Kouichi Iwaki, Kenichi Kato, Sonny Chiba
  The Skinny: An unapologetic crime action noir that forces the audience to identify with a despicable protagonist among a sea of unlikable characters. If you like your anti-hero like a hard shot of liquor, Yusaku Matsuda's Asakura is your man.
Review
by
Kevin Ma:
     Japanese Cinema has seen its share of anti-hero protagonists, particularly in the Yakuza genre. Now get ready for one in the Japanese corporate world in Resurrection of the Golden Wolf, an unrelentingly mean crime noir from Kadokawa Films featuring a hell of an anti-hero as the protagonist. Yusaku Matsuda is Asakura, your typical Japanese salaryman who eats his cup o' noodles at his desk and complains about his bosses along with everyone else. But outside of work, Asakura is a weaponry expert and a skilled boxer who has just stolen 100 million yen from a courier, who he killed in a daring daylight robbery. However, he discovers that the bills are marked, making the money virtually impossible to spend. No worries, he can just shake down a couple of gangsters to find out where he can score some heroin to sell back for profit. But first, he'll seduce his boss' mistress by hooking her on drugs, threaten a politician, kill all of said politician's cronies, fight off a blackmailer (Sonny Chiba in an extended cameo) from another company, then trick his employers into paying him for the job he's supposed to have been doing all along. Clark Kent this guy is not.
     And so goes the "hero's journey," as Asakura fights off numerous potential enemies using his wits and superior fighting skills, blackmails them, and climbs up the social ladder until there's nowhere to go but down. Based on a novel by Haruhiko Oyabu, one of the first authors of "hard-boiled" novels in Japan, Resurrection of the Golden Wolf forces you to identify with Asakura just because he happens to be the "best" bad guy in the whole film by virtue of being the smartest and the strongest. The rest of the characters are sleazy killers, shady blackmailers, despicable executives, and women who are love interests disguised as sex objects. This is a primal hard-boiled action noir not for the politically correct, as it proudly presents a protagonist whose actions are glorified, even though he steps on everyone else without batting an eyelash.
     Films like this are hard to pull off, because the filmmakers can risk alienating the audience if the protagonist appears too harsh. Thankfully, director Toru Murakawa has Yusaku Matsuda's award-nominated performance on his side. Sporting an afro that could only exist in the 70s, Matsuda oozes charisma as Asakura, as he alternates between sociopathic psycho, brilliant criminal, nerdy salaryman, and ladies man over the course of the film (in one scene, he literally holds a mask over his face to represent his multiple personalities). But the film's roots as a novel show from the very first scene as we are thrown right into the robbery without any type of context. Besides the basic human need for lots of cash, sex, drugs, and violence, why does Asakura choose to do what he does in the film? And how does he pick up all that knowledge about weaponry? Certainly not from boxing training. The result is almost like a video game, where audiences are forced to follow Asakura along on this journey simply because it's what they're watching onscreen.
     Then again, some audiences are tired of psychological insights and just want to see a good old-fashioned anti-hero do what he does best. In this fashion, Resurrection of the Golden Wolf certainly fits the bill. Murakawa employs a dynamic style, pulling off several impressive long takes, including two action sequences where Asakura finds many ways to plow through evil henchmen, sometimes using just a slingshot! Like most exploitation action films, Murakawa does go a little too far, adding gratuitous nudity (a scene at a dance club comes to mind) plus a very strangely edited montage of an all-night tryst. Furthermore, the film packs in so many characters that seemingly important plot points involving minor characters are often skirted around and explained in verbal exposition, making the journey from point A to point B sometimes confusing. The film also drags slightly at parts, exposing screenwriter Shuichi Nagahara's need to follow the literary structure by cramming too much plot into the adaptation. In the end, enjoyment from Resurrection of the Golden Wolf really depends on personal taste. Not everyone will be able to find a character to identify with, since everyone is pretty unlikable. If you can handle a bit of misogyny and general brutality in your action films, then this film is probably going to a blast right up to its anti-climatic ending. At least Murakawa does it with no apologies. (Kevin Ma 2007)
Notes: • The original novel was released in two parts: "The Ambitious Volume" and "The Ending Volume."
• - While the film is widely acknowledged to have a 131-minute running time, the DVD from Hong Kong's IVL, which also reports the 131-minute runtime, runs only 118 minutes long, including a rather abrupt cut just before the 66-minute mark. It's not sure whether this is a problem with the DVD or the original print by Kadokawa.
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video Limited.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital Mono
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Original Theatrical Trailer
 

   
 
 
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