Japanese filmmaker Seijun Suzuki opens his 1963 yakuza actioner with a literal bang as sharply dressed gangsters battle on a dark backcountry road in the Tokyo outskirts. Bullets fly. Autos careen off the road. Bodies pile up. A glorious screen-engulfing car explosion ends this out-of-control melee but kick-starts a dirty Rock & Roll number. Over this destructive culmination slams in blood-red Japanese script the nails-hard title: Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!
This nihilistic display of dangerous cool is the perfect stage setting for the mix of break-neck violence, genre satire, postwar commentary, dark humor, musical numbers and Jazz Pop tunes that follows
. Longtime Suzuki collaborator Jo Shishido stars as a cocky amateur detective determined to take down the yakuza from the inside and earn respect from the legit police force in the process. Worming into a gang, he gains their trust and learns their secrets as his true identity teeters towards revelation. You can guess how everything turns out, but that’s the point. Despite its mania, Detective Bureau 2-3
sticks to conventions. As a Nikkatsu Studios contract director, Suzuki was expected to do so, while working assembly-line fashion to deliver no-frills B-films on time and on budget. But like his Detective Bureau hero, Suzuki found a way to work within the system while extravagantly deviating from it. The style brought him worldwide cult fame, but also led to a firing from Nikkatsu in 1968, a breach-of-contract lawsuit and an eventual 10-year blacklist. Detective Bureau 2-3 is an incredible snapshot of Suzuki just before this turmoil, working at full artistic power within confines that would soon bring him down. Grade: A