Japanese director Seijun Suzuki made his way with genre pictures, hired to be a B-film director making movies like Youth of the Beast. The stories were often that of genre films, but the longer that Suzuki made these films at Nikkatsu studios the more creative he became. By the time he reached the point of Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill the New Wave-influenced Suzuki was making daringly original films which upset Nikkatsu enough to break contract and fire the filmmaker.
Tokyo Drifter is in the same class as Youth of the Beast, though Suzuki has turned the gangster genre on its head a bit more. The film tells the tale of a reformed killer named Tetsu (played by pop singer Tetsuya Watari), who goes straight with his crime boss until a rival gang threatens them. Called back to
to battle a gang, Tetsu finds that there are few people he can trust, that won’t betray him. Even more surprising are those who he can trust. Tokyo
Filled with outrageous costumes and colorful sets, much of Tokyo Drifter seems to have more in common with a James Bond film than a gangster film. Filled with pop music and lots of color, it is difficult to take even the violence too seriously. The fact that the little action in the film is ultra-stylized and made to look effortless only enhances the dreamlike quality of the film.
The Blu-ray release of this classic Japanese New Wave film is equipped with a new high definition digital restoration, with an uncompressed monaural soundtrack. The special features include a video piece with new interviews by director Suzuki and his assistant director, Masami Kuzuu. There are also interviews with Suzuki from 1997 and a trailer, plus a booklet with an essay by film critic Howard Hampton.