Juzo Itami's attack on the time-honored Japanese institution of the yakuza (gangsters) suffers from a split personality. Part expose, part farce, this story of a hotel that refuses to give in to the yakuza's extortion gambits is lively but thin.
Tokyo's deluxe Hotel Europa is plagued by a gang of yakuza who hang out in its lobby and restaurants. When the gangsters' loud, obnoxious, and threatening behavior jeopardizes the hotel's chances of hosting an international summit meeting, management decides they must be removed. The task is
assigned to two reluctant employees, Suzuki (Yasuo Diachi), an accountant, and Wakasugi (Takehiro Murata), an athletic bellboy. This duo proves less than dynamic: intimidated by the bellowing, garishly dressed yakuza, they give in to miscellaneous threats and shakedowns, and are soon spending
their days hiding under a large table in one of the hotels' empty banquet halls.
They're rescued by Mahiru Inoue (Nobuko Miyamoto), an upbeat woman lawyer who specializes in fighting the yakuza. Mahiru gives them one simple instruction--if the gangsters threaten violence or mention money, they're to call the cops. Inoue also sets up a special surveillance room, complete with
video camera and microphones, and warns Suzuki and Wakasugi never to face the gangsters alone. Yakuza leader Irichijima (Shiro Ito) launches an extortion plot by throwing an innocent golf game to the hotel's general manager. Insisting on paying the small wager between them, he wires $20,000 into
the manager's account, using the transfer as the basis for blackmail. When the manager tries to make a deal, the gangster drugs him and takes compromising pictures. The yakuza then launch a defamation campaign against the hotel and spread word that a new wing under construction poses environmental
problems. Their price for relenting is $10 million.
Mahiru goes to work. She counters the shakedown by threatening to tell Irichijima's powerful rival about the scam. Then she gets an injunction to stop the defamation and protests. But just as she's ready to allow herself a tender moment with Wakasugi, a gangster stabs her. In a final showdown,
Wakasugi and Suzuki manage to entrap the gangsters during a meeting at the hotel. When Mahiru recovers, the hotel is gangster-free and plans to hold a future summit.
Even for a farce, MINBO is crudely constructed: the gangsters are inflexibly overbearing; the reluctant heroes are relentlessly craven; the plot is wildly contrived. That makes for a few good laughs, but the fun wears out quickly. The screenplay exhaustively documents the yakuza's notorious
methods of extortion, but provides little in the way of engaging narrative. In the end, MINBO falls victim to Itami's obsession with the gangsters: in detailing their exploits, he's forgotten to write any characters with substance--even for the always expressive Miyamoto. The result is a busy
movie that doesn't have the solid plot or sympathetic protagonists that might keep us interested. (Violence, nudity, profanity)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: Juzo Itami's attack on the time-honored Japanese institution of the yakuza (gangsters) suffers from a split personality. Part expose, part farce, this story of a hotel that refuses to give in to the yakuza's extortion gambits is lively but thin. Tokyo's… (more)