Some new, unknown force is taking out the local yakuza gangs, and the police can’t figure it out. Only one man, Tajima (Jo Shishido) of Detective Bureau 2-3 can do it!
When Manabe, a member of the unknown yakuza, is taken into police custody, the entire yakuza underworld stakes out the police department, waiting for their chance to do away with the potential stool pigeon. Using his quick wit and charm, Tajima is able to secret Manabe away, safe and sound. Having duped Manabe into believing that he’s a low-level criminal (and not the brilliant head of Detective Bureau 2-3!), Tajima infiltrates the shadowy yakuza group. There, he faces distrusting gangsters and a few fairly blasé femme fatales. Of course, this shit can’t keep Tajima down; he even has enough time for a song and dance number.
Seijun Suzuki’s Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! isn’t just a movie with a great name, though, admittedly, the name is its strongest asset. The 1963 crime film stars frequent Suzuki collaborator Jo Shishido, a man who--would you believe it?--had cheek augmentation surgery to fill out his face. Bizarre. Anyway, the film is unabashedly self-aware, seemingly making light of its own nonsense. It’s colourful, and full of dancing, and Shishido doesn’t seem to be taking things too seriously. That’s probably for the best. Detective Bureau 2-3 is like an extended episode of the Adam West “Batman” show, except with a lot more gun fighting and male chauvinism.
The film provides a cookie-cutter plot: Tajima infiltrates the crime organization, but they don’t trust him, so he has to jump through a few hoops and charm their pants off. Along the way the boss’s girlfriend falls for him (but not he for her, obviously). She tells him that she’s a virgin with the heart of a whore, which is both a humorous inversion of genre stereotypes and a total jackpot for Tajima. Then the crooks get wise, which leads to a few shoot outs, and a finale involving an armaments-laden basement being filled with fuel and set ablaze. Only a daring escape will do.
Along the way, Tajima’s Detective Bureau 2-3 co-workers are there to provide (probably redundant) comedy relief, donning Sabotage-level disguises and hamming it up for the camera. Add a couple of flustered cops who can barely keep up with the wily Tajima, and you get the idea.
Helping you ignore the paper-thin plot of the film is an amazing jazz score that was probably already retro and campy when it was first composed. The music is a perfect background for Suzuki’s visual flare--the man was making films that looked like comic books come to life before Robert Rodriguez was born (and he certainly wasn’t so slavish about it). Detective Bureau 2-3 is light, popcorn-y stuff, and definitely a decent way to spend an hour and half, if nothing else.
The Kino International DVD is a solid-enough offering; the transfer isn’t perfect, but it’s nice and colourful. It comes with two, unsubtitled trailers, one for Cops vs Thugs, and another for Yakuza Graveyard. Since it's a surprise that a film like Detective Bureau 2-3 even gets to see the light of day in North America, one can hardly complain about the quality of the disc.