“I’m a virgin, but my heart is that of a prostitute.”
Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards is another of Suzuki’s yakuza films. A marvel for 1963, it is a seldom mentioned title in his career (perhaps the title length is intimidating). It is stylistically and defiantly a Suzuki film, containing all of his usual trademarks, both glorious and baffling. With the opening credit sequence superimposed over a burning car, the film is violently self-aware, allowing for the absurd – like much of Suzuki’s work. We have the tough-as-nails protagonist (played expertly by Jo Shishido), the wronged mistress (Reiko Sasamori), and the evil villain (Kinzo Shin), for the film shares elements with fables as well as cheesy “undercover cop” films. There is structural familiarity but also a conscious artistic and absurdist postmodern take on the private detective character.
Members of two gangs are gunned down during a gun trade by an unidentified third group, the goods stolen. A man named Manabe is soon arrested by the police but the day has come for him to be released. The police plan to tail him so that he’ll lead them to whichever gang is involved, however, both gangs camp outside of the precinct prepared to shoot him down. The reason the police allow them to do so is, of course, because they have hunting licenses. The media fervently covers the story. The protagonist is private detective, Hideo Tajima. His office is Detective Bureau 2-3 and he has one assistant and a magazine editor who help him at opportune times. They bring him potential assignments and bring the film a great deal of camp. They are eager and dependable however, so they are also watchable.
Hideo arrives at the police station and convinces the chief (after a fair amount of tedium) that a non-policeman, a complete “unknown,” namely himself, would be the most ideal inside man to crack the gun trade. He doesn’t do this for free of course. He is given a gun and fake I.D. by the police. His name is now Ichiro Tanaka, a man who’s been sentenced twice and has since been released. They give him a residence in Musashidai. The chief reassures him that only the top brass know of this arrangement; if he commits a crime he will be arrested, he is only to act as bait. Upon Manabe’s release, Tanaka (Hideo) helps him escape with such bravado that he even stops to watch the carnage unfold at one point to admire how well it all worked out. These are signature Suzuki scenes, embraced by some and despised by others. Another, where a television news report is simply black and white scenes shot for the film as if a dozen cameramen were covering the action with finely-focused close-ups and all. The colours of certain scenes, extreme reds and vibrant yellows, the claustrophobic closeness of key shots (beautiful by the way), the jagged editing; it’s absurdist cinema, sometimes a bit too much, but Suzuki’s confidence is clearly cast upon the film.
Tanaka is accepted into Manabe’s gang, or rather one he’s a part of. We meet Yoshihama, nephew to Boss Hatano. Hatano, however, is actually maneuvered by a man named Beniki. It isn’t long before they discover Tanaka’s true identity and we witness Hideo’s daring and pure sense of reckless abandon in full force. And so a song is sung in the film, “This one’s a lout, he is stupid; this one is a lout, he is clever. The two louts plan together – a lousy job. Who will be more cunning? The fox or the raccoon? They join forces, but in the end, a third thief swindles them.” A little on-the-nose, but fitting in this cinematic world. There are, in fact, two musical numbers in the film (one in which involves Shishido). Harumi Ibe’s score consists of rollicking jazz-influenced bombasticism that is very appropriate to the perfectly-framed and colourful visuals of which Suzuki is never spare in providing. A fine film in the Suzuki canon, but may be a bit too unrealistic and silly for some more accustomed to Suzuki’s darker works.