In an unusual twist, this action thriller places the FBI and an American Mafia family in an uneasy alliance with the common goal of rousting the Japanese Mafia, the Yakuza, from Los Angeles. A better-than-usual specimen of its genre, AMERICAN YAKUZA has substantial character development
and successfully portrays the complicated and contradictory alliances that exist in the criminal underworld.
Undercover FBI agent David Brandt (Viggo Mortensen) is assigned to infiltrate the LA branch of the Yakuza, which is selling illegal arms. Brandt, posing as ex-con Nick Davis, gains employment as a laborer in a Yakuza-owned company, and quickly finds himself opposing fellow FBI agents who are
executing a sting operation against the Japanese gangsters. Brandt saves the life of the Yakuza second-in-command, Shoji (Ryo Ishibashi), who has been injured in a gunfight with the FBI.
The Yakuza confront the head of the American Mafia, Campanela (Michael Nouri), with their suspicion that he is behind the legal action against them. Campanela forges an uneasy truce by claiming innocence, but Shoji is not convinced. While Brandt continues to strengthen his ties with the Yakuza by
helping with arms shipments, he again finds himself in the middle of an FBI sting operation. He earns the respect and trust of the Yakuza by injuring FBI agents during a violent confrontation.
The Yakuza indoctrinate Brandt into their "family" through an elaborate ancient rite and present him with an elegant apartment. Yuko (Cristina Lawson), an interior decorator and Shoji's beautiful goddaughter, enters Davis' life via Shoji's offer to lavishly adorn the apartment.
While Brandt falls for Yuko, the FBI discovers that Campanela and the Mafia plan to eliminate the Yakuza, and the Bureau has tacitly agreed to look the other way. As a result, it becomes necessary to pull agent Brandt off the case. However, concerned about Yuko and his friend's Shoji's lives,
Brandt rushes back to his apartment--only to witness Yuko's violent death. The Mafia succeed in killing all the Yakuza except Shoji, who then joins with Brandt for a final showdown, in which Campanela and his Mafioso cohorts are killed. Brandt shares bittersweet final moments with Shoji, who dies
from injuries sustained during the battle.
Director Frank Cappello does an adequate job of weaving a relatively intricate storyline together, while delivering numerous explosive, action-packed sequences. Mortensen excels in his portrayal of the cunning Brandt, and Ryo Ishibashi is impressive as the noble Shoji. Overall, AMERICAN YAKUZA is
a surprisingly powerful portrayal of the loyalties that exist in the underworld, where violence and betrayal are a way of life. (Violence, sexual situations, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: R
- Review: In an unusual twist, this action thriller places the FBI and an American Mafia family in an uneasy alliance with the common goal of rousting the Japanese Mafia, the Yakuza, from Los Angeles. A better-than-usual specimen of its genre, AMERICAN YAKUZA has su… (more)