1 people found this review helpful
Jul 8, 2022
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 8.0
This review may contain spoilers

A twisted yet entertaining look into the yakuza world

The Blood of Wolves duology can be described in three words: Violent, over-the-top and exciting. While the first movie was all three of them together, Last of the Wolves takes (also known as The Blood of Wolves Level 2) the wacky violence and the idea of controlling a ruthless and unpredictable hierarchy for your own benefit, and turns it up to eleven.

Set a few years after the events of the first movie and into the early 90s, we follow the journey of protagonist Hioka Shūichi (played by Matsuzaka Tori) who took the place of his mentor Ōgami as the secret autarch of Hiroshima's criminal underworld. His past experiences turned him from a well-intentioned idealist into a cold, calculating cynic who tricks and manipulates the local yakuza into staying obedient to him. However, things take a turn for the worse when Uebayashi Shigehiro (played by Suzuki Ryohei) gets released from prison with plans to avenge the death of his patriarch Irako and gain back the power his family has lost during his stint in jail. His presence rattles the perfect order Hioka preserved in the past few years, and he decides to send his friend Chinta (played by Murakami Nijiro) to work as a mole in Uebayashi's gang and help him gather information on his future plans. With the aid of Chinta and a mild-mannered veteran detective called Seshima (played by Nakamura Baijaku), Hioka investigates the matter to keep the lid on his activities as fast as possible, and also begins to find buried secrets that will shake him to the core...

The first thing you need to know about the movie is that it's BLOODY. If you can't stomach graphic violence then I recommend you sit this one out. Our introduction scene to Uebayashi's true character is so graphic that it's ridiculous, and the movie reminds us of that over and over again (Let's say he has a thing for eyes). The acting has a great balance of over-the-top anger typical for yakuza movies, but also more subtle moments of grief, sadness and loneliness. Matsuzaka Tori does an incredible job portraying Hioka as a jaded, self-serving but also well-intentioned man, and makes sure to give him depth that keeps him from being too unsympathetic. Suzuki Ryohei's performance as Uebayashi was enjoyable as much as it was disturbing, showing us just how vile and deranged his character really is. Returning actors Nakamura Shidō II, Takito Kenichi and Otoo Takuma also do a great job with their roles, but my favorite has to be Murakami Nijiro as Chinta. His downward spiral is absolutely heartbreaking and I guarantee you'll wish you could have given him the biggest hug by the end. Nishino Nanase's performance was a bit lackluster, but it's one of her first so I'll be easy on her.
The plot is unpredictable and exciting, with many twists and turns that slowly fall into place and keep you on your toes, and the final fight between our protagonist and antagonist is cathartic as hell. I really liked that while the color scheme is more muted than the vibrant palette of the first movie, the lively feeling of nighttime Hiroshima still makes the story feel more grounded in reality despite the crazy action, but also make the scenes of depravity, death and corruption a lot bleaker.

Overall, this is a violent but still very fun experience to try if you're in a mood for a yakuza flick that feels like it's pulled straight out of the 90s. Just make sure you're not eating anything when it gets to the grisly parts.

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The Blood of Wolves Level 2 (2021) poster



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