Action scene analysis
Yusaku Matsuda stars as Tetsuya Asakura, a seemingly mild mannered clerk at a large oil company. However, by night he is a tough, proficient gunman out to get back at his employers. The viewer follows Asakura’s increasingly wild and violent plans- from stealing the company’s money (and turning it into heroin!) to dramatic encounters with the yakuza. In many ways, Yomigaeru Kinrou (The Resurrection of the Golden Wolf) is a typical 70s violent anti-hero movie with a slightly convoluted plot. However, some particularly interestingly filmed scenes make it worth a look.
There is a dynamic scene midway through the film- in which Yusaku Matsuda’s character is sneaking through some ruins near the ocean in order to pick off some yakuza underlings before meeting the boss. It provides an excellent example of how a fusion of clever camera work, choreography and sound design can produce a gripping and gritty, yet slick and stylish action scene.
First of all we see Matsuda emerging through some rocks in the foreground, with the gleaming ocean in the background. The camera pauses as he takes cover and slingshots the first two yakuza henchmen. In each case we first get a shot of Matsuda firing the yellow slingshot followed by slow motion shots of each guard falling to the ground. Then the pace of the scene suddenly increases with a short burst of running as Matsuda darts through the ruined tunnels.
The camera moves in a very natural way- it shakes as Matsuda runs and steadies and stops when he does. It is a controlled and carefully crafted- unlike the overdone, unfocussed shakiness found in some films. The focus is clear and crisp. When Matsuda is crouched down, blurred blades of grass are visible in the foreground. This both gives depth to the shot and furthers the earthy feel of the scene.
The camera zigzags through the ruins after him but then slows; pauses as he dives into cover or stops to stab a guard. The thumping bass and electronic thrum of the funk soundtrack (track 11 on this CD for the most intense parts of the scene) that weaves through the scene highlights the tension. It is used like seasoning- the sound of the waves, wind and gunshots given priority over the music when they best fit the moment.
The way the camera follows him is similar to how modern third-person action videogames develop closeness between the player and character. In this film, it allows us to see the drastic actions and violence of Yusaku Matsuda’s character up-close while still keeping us separated from him via the third person perspective. and the occasional appearance of items in the foreground, which hinder our view for brief moments.
The camera pauses at the foot of a metal staircase as Matsuda rushes up it to surprise a henchman, stabbing him and throwing him down the stairs into the camera. For a change, it is Matsuda’s look of panic we see as the henchman aims his gun. However, his arm flops and he fires off into the corner of the screen.
The shape of the ruins frames the action beautifully. This is exemplified in the interior shot where we see Matsuda appear in a window to shoot a guard towards the camera. A boat gives it a painterly feel but does not detract from the rough, violent nature of the scene.
Overall, this scene is a great example of a complimentary fusion of cinematography, sound design and choreography. The film has a few other interestingly shot action scenes- including intense stealthy infiltrations and a car chase in a coal pit. Later in the film, an overhead shot of all levels of an entire room is used to show Matsuda as he jumps around its levels while high on drugs.