The Yakuza Papers 5: Final Episode (1974)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama  |   Run Time - 98 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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The finale of The Yakuza Papers ends the series in a manner befitting its unconventional, humanist approach. The script delivers all the violent skirmishes and political infighting that fans expect from the series but it's all tempered with a certain sadness as it explores the theme of the yakuza code becoming outdated in a civilized era driven by big business. The performances match the somber tone of the material, with Akira Kobayashi creating a subtle, effective portrait of a crime boss weighed down by the system he works in and Kinya Kitaoji adding an intense turn as Kobayashi's upstart replacement, who struggles to prove himself while being undermined on all sides. Bunta Sugawara's character of Shozo Hirono is more of a supporting role than a lead in this entry but Sugawara brings his usual charisma to the role while keeping his work subtle enough to lend his performance a somber, thoughtful tone. Director Kinji Fukasaku keeps the complex narrative moving at a sharp pace and deftly blends the story's combination of action and drama into a compelling whole. It all adds up to a movie that hits the expected genre marks but does so in an adult-friendly manner, ending things on a well-earned philosophical note. In short, Yakuza Papers 5: Final Episode is a fine, mature capper to this series and well worth the time for fans of the yakuza genre.