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A Must Have for physical media aficionados – Big Time Gambling Boss (Blu Ray Review)

4 min read

Radiance Films

In the world of there is more than ever out there for the cinephiles and boutique collectors. From the cult classics released through Arrow Video to the arthouse masterpieces released through the Criterion Collection, there is more than anyone could dream of. However, new kids on the block, are sure to cause quite the stir with their first batch of blu rays set to be released January 2nd 2023.

Primarily producing rare and overlooked gems from the world of cinema, the most well known titles in the companies first line up are perhaps and . However, within that lineup sits Big Time Gambling Boss, humbly boasting its world blu ray premiere status across its front cover.

 

Though the company may be new to the scene the transfer looks incredibly good. Of course the rarity of the film does occasionally cause some issues but nevertheless the image on screen is always beautiful to watch. 

 

In spite of its cult status, the team behind Big Time Gambling Boss is considerably impressive. Not only is the film written by Kazuo Kasahara of fame but it also stars of Lone Wolf and Cub and 's .

 

The film is set in 1934 Japan when the leader of a yakuza clan falls ill and a successor must be named. The choice falls on Nakai (), but being an outsider he refuses and suggests senior clansman Matsuda (Wakayama) instead. But the clan elders refuse to await his release from prison, instead appointing the younger and more malleable Ishido () to take the reins. Clan honour and loyalties are severely tested when Matsuda is released, resulting in an increasingly violent internal strife. 

 

The true drama of the film really comes from the internal strife of Nakai and Matsuda's friendship. Not only does it represent the external battle between Matsuda and the clan and vice versa, but equally so both work together to bring an incredible amount of tension to the picture, each new disagreement or argument you are left fearing for the worst. Perhaps what is best about the pair is that they are total opposites to one another yet so evenly matched. Whereas Matsuda is fueled by rage, Nakai is wise beyond his years. Although Nakai is a skilled swordsman, Matsuda's strength is matched by no one.

 

Radiance Films

 

The performances of the two leads – and everyone involved really – are wonderful to watch. Wakayama as Matsuda is perfect. There is a Japanese professional wrestler by the name of Tomohiro Ishii who goes by the nickname “the stone pitbull”, a nickname apt for both the character and Wakayama's performance; bullyish, unforgiving and truly intimidating. Kôji Tsuruta as Nakai is excellent too, bringing the perfect balance to the performance of his co-star.

 

Although the film does not have the epic scale of a Kurosawa film or the balls to the wall insanity of a Miike movie, Kôsaku Yamashita impressively directs the film with skill and a unique sense of identity. Bringing a slow and gentle nature to the film that is much needed inbetween the brutal violence on screen. It is a fantastic genre flick which truly deserves a much higher place in the annals of cinema. Paul Schrader called it the richest and most complex film of its type and it is hard to disagree.

 

Big Time Gambling Boss isn't just a fantastic film but also a fantastic new addition to the blu ray market thanks to the folks over at Radiance Films. If you're a physical media collector, a fan of Japanese cinema or even just a fan of damn good movies, then this edition of Big Time Gambling Boss is for you.

Limited Edition Special Features:

  • High Definition digital transfer of the film
  • Uncompressed mono PCM audio
  • Serial Gambling: A video essay by Chris D., author of Gun and Sword: An Encyclopedia of Japanese Gangster Films 1955-1980, on Big Time Gambling Boss‘s origins in the Toei studio's serialized yakuza movie production and what sets the film apart (2022)
  • Ninkyo 101: In this video essay, Mark Schilling, author of The Yakuza Movie Book, delves into the history and impact of the classical style of yakuza film, the ninkyo eiga or “chivalry films” (2022)
  • Gallery of original promotional stills
  • Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by maarko phntm
  • Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Stuart Galbraith IV, and critic Hayley Scanlon
  • Limited edition of 2000 copies, presented in full-height Scanavo packaging with removable OBI strip leaving packaging free of certificates and markings

Big Time Gambling Boss is released on January 2nd through Radiance Films.