Showing posts from March, 2023

Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an American Gangster in Japan (1999)

by Robert Whiting The sub-title of Robert Whiting's fine book is a bit  misleading.   Robert Whiting The American gangster in question often disappears from the narrative for long stretches while Whiting explains the extensive history of collusion between Japanese politicians and the yakuza.   Nevertheless, the result is a fascinating social history with plenty of entertaining anecdotes and colorful character profiles.   Chief among the latter is Nick Zapetti himself, the "gangster" who made a fortune with pizza parlors that became the hangout of choice for expatriates, entertainers, and, most significantly, those who make their living on the wrong side of the law, and then lost that fortune through a combination of stubbornness, bad luck, and ignorance.   "Tokyo Underworld" (Japanese) Another highlight is the career of Rikidozan, the former sumo wrestler who became a national hero and single-handedly established professional wrestling in Japan by defeating fore

Mean Streets (1973)

Director: Martin Scorsese Writers: Martin Scorsese and Mardik Martin, story by Martin Scorsese Stars: Harvey Keitel, Robert DeNiro, Amy Robinson, David Proval, Richard Romanus, Cesare Danova, Victor Argo, George Memmoli Martin Scorsese's film is a slice of life drama about  small-time hoods in New York's Little Italy.  Charlie (Harvey Keitel) collects debts for his uncle and waits for his opportunity to take ownership of a rinky-dink little restaurant.   He is conflicted and guilt-ridden over the immoral lifestyle he must lead and the small-minded prejudices he must endure in order to maintain such a life of mediocrity.   He is pressured to turn his back on a woman he cares about (Amy Robinson) because she has epilepsy (which makes her "crazy" in the eyes of his family), and he feels a responsibility to protect his childhood friend Johnny Boy (Robert DeNiro), an erratic hoodlum who has doom written all over him.   Charlie's care of Johnny Boy is like a penance he

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Director: John Ford Writers: James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck, based on the story by Dorothy M. Johnson Stars: James Stewart, John Wayne, Lee Marvin, Vera Miles, Edmond O'Brien, Andy Devine, Ken Murray, John Carradine When lawyer Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart)  heads west to set up his shingle in the small town of Shinbone, he runs afoul of the local gunslinger Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).   He believes that the law should deal with a man like Valance, but local farmer Tom Doniphan (John Wayne) holds that only the gun can protect him.  There is a lot to unpack in this deceptively simple story: the shift from fascism to democracy in the West, the dark side of Western individualism, the necessity of literacy and a free press, the responsibilities of being a citizen in a democracy, the importance of gun ownership in building this country and its potential to destroy it, and much more, all wrapped up in a compelling story with absorbing characters and a touching romance.   The