Season of Violence

July 17, 2010

Boso no kisetsu (Japan, 1976)

Toei’s Detonation biker gang series continues in somewhat tired fashion. Season of Violence takes a new approach but changes turn against it. Teruo Ishii, featured as the series director for the third and last time, helms the picture with routine, only managing to fresh up a limited amount of scenes. One of these scenes is the exhilarating opening. A dynamic police – motorcycle chase, it’s easily the best action piece in the series so far. Unfortunately, the film makes a 180 degree turn soon after, and never finds the right track again. The lack of exciting new ideas is obvious, and even the repetition of old, functional patterns has been largely ignored.

Expectations of a violent gang saga, fueled up by the film’s memorable title, are best buried right in the beginning. For an outlaw action film of the 70’s, Season of Violence is notably violence-free, up to the point of escaping the action film categorization. More describing is the film’s original poster art, displaying the bare chested Kouichi Iwaki on a yacht, accompanied by a topless woman on a chopper at the bottom of the image. Neither of these elements are faulty as per se, but certainly lacking balls compared to the previous installments in the series. Where are the tattooed neo Nazis and bike riding Travis Bickles that filled the character galleries of the first two Detonation movies?

Setting the majority of its story on sunny beaches rather than on burning streets, the film follows a troubled young man (Kouichi Iwaki) whose days are spent playing guitar and drooling after a selfish rich girl (Yutaka Nakajima). A hard fisted party group that rules the beaches give our hero hard time, but hardly even manage to stir a proper conflict. The protagonist’s loser friends make occasional screen visits, bumping up the film’s comedy factor by a notch. Before its climax the story even makes a dive into romance and drama. This isn’t what the audience was expecting from madman Ishii.

A complete failure Season of Violence is not. Ishii does raise his head every now and then with oddities such as romantic rape scene, and some of the beach parts do have successful laidback atmosphere. The same setting was, however, used to a far superior effect in the second Stray Cat Rock film, Wild Jumbo (1970), which even featured a male lead (Tatsuya Fuji) unmistakably resembling the bad guy of Season of Violence, Taro Shigaki. Shigaki’s performance, however, falls to flatness, a problem concerning most of the film’s cast.

Including Season of Violence in the Detonation series is a rather questionable act on Toei’s behalf. The lack of the Detonation headline could be taken as a hint of new approach, of course, yet it did little to prevent Toei marketing the film as a part of this specific series. In practice, however, the Detonation films have always been very loosely connected and only tied by their director, cast, and theme, the latter of which has now been stretched to the wrong direction. Explosive action is, aside the impressive opening, limited to the final few minutes, and even then expectations are not quite met. For little demanding Kouichi Iwaki fans Season of Violence is passable viewing, for others it’s mostly likely a pass.

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