Detective Bureau 2-3 Go to Hell, Bastards! Review

From the very opening of Detective Bureau 2-3 Go to Hell Bastards! you sort of know what to expect. A blaring horn section blasts out a rendition of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" over the Nikkatsu logo. We then get a heist scene, involving an American army official who waves through a gang of Yakuza trying to sneak weapons off an American army base. However, before they can offload the weapons and abandon the army truck they are attacked by another gang hidden inside a Coca-Cola truck. The scene ends with a chaotic gun battle with various cars going everywhere, people emptying so many bullet casings onto the ground you wonder whether some of the casualties were caused by slipping on the tiny metal cylinders. I should have probably mentioned that the film is directed by Seijun Suzuki.

One of the members of the rival gang, Manabe is captured by the police and interrogated in order to give up information about this new force in Japan. Hideo Tajima, a private investigator, stops by the police station where Manabe is being held that, not so coincidentally, is also surrounded by Yakuza members hoping to waste a member of a rival gang. He suggests  an undercover operation to Inspector Kumagai in order to infiltrate and expose the leadership. From there Detective Bureau is a cat and mouse game where Tajima tries to outdo the leaders of the gang. Culminating in another chaotic gun battle between three Yakuza gangs and the police.

From the title, you would expect that this is part of a series of films that Nikkatsu was pushing as a vehicle for Jo Shishido, one of their diamond guys, and you would sort of be right. This was supposed to be a standard cops-and-criminals B-movie, the run and gun kind for young audiences trying to find some more extreme entertainment. However, being a Seijun Suzuki joint Detective Bureau is anything but ordinary.

You should know by now if you have read my other reviews of Arrow’s releases of his work, like his Early Collections Volumes 1 and 2 and The Taisho Trilogy, that Suzuki is a director that likes to play with convention. The director I think that you can compare him to is Alfred Hitchcock, bold claim I know, but, like Hitchcock, Suzuki distinguishes himself from other B-Movie genre directors through merit and one surprisingly artistic shot that lets the audience member know that this is a director who knows how to use film to his advantage.

Detective Bureau is no exception; from the bombastic action sequences that wouldn't look out of place in The Blues Brothers, to the immediate poking fun at the American occupation, (which admittedly ended before the movie was released) to the conventions of the Yakuza genre. But the film also has expressionistic framing, when the female lead reveals her backstory to Tajima and when Manabe reunites with his girlfriend for the first time. Suzuki even found a way of using the musical numbers in the same way as a Greek chorus - two songs are essentially summarising the events of the film.

Arrow Video has done an excellent job in the making of this disc. The high definition 1080p presentation is crystal clear and coupled with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 soundtrack, the film both looks and sounds like it was released last week, despite being made nearly 55 years ago.  The extra that is included on the Blu-ray should also be no surprise either, a discussion with Tony Rayns about the film. From his previous appearances, Rayns has established himself as the Suzuki expert, but he can speak eloquently and fluently about Detective Bureau for a good half an hour, detailing the historical production of the film, as well as the cast and crew involved. It almost makes up for the rest of the lack of extras on the disc as well.

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell, Bastards! is a release that, if you are familiar with Seijun Suzuki, Tony Rayns and Arrow Video in general, will not surprise you. But that does not necessarily make this a bad thing. If you have bought and loved Arrow’s previous releases of Suzuki's work then you are going to love this as well. It has the same playful humour at the core, melding genre and form into something new and original, and it has an excellent introduction to it courtesy of Tony Rayns, for those who are unfamiliar with the film. For those who are not as familiar with Suzuki and his work this is perhaps one to start with, a film that typifies Suzuki’s madcap energetic style but with hints at the surrealist artistry of his most famous movies.

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Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards, despite its unwieldy title, is the high-quality release from Arrow Video, of a highly unique Seijun Suzuki film that you should be expecting.


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