Proxy War, along with the second film in the series, Hiroshima Deathmatch, are really where the Yakuza Papers series really kicks into high gear with showing the real nature of the Yakuza life. Where the sophomore film in the series introduced a new character, followed him through his induction into the yakuza, until his ultimate death, Proxy War returns us to following Bunta Sugawara’s character, Shozo Hirono, as factions within the old guard start playing the new generation of yakuza against each other, while Hirono himself tries to reconcile this current chain of events with the yakuza code of honor.
As with the previous film in the series, this film tightens up the cast, and also tightens up the scope of the film. Where the first film covered almost a decade in 90 minutes, this film sticks with a couple years of time, as Hirono’s crew gets caught up in the schemes of their competitors, before being ultimately torn apart in the struggle over who will control Hiroshima.
Stylistically, this film is along the same lines as the rest of the series. Lots of handheld camera work, which deliberate camera shake. Fight scenes are rough and chaotic, both in terms of how they’re shot and how they’re fought. This causes particular problems with the gunfight scenes, where nobody is bothering with even the vague pretense of aiming. I’m not expecting people to show marksmanship, but I am expecting someone who’s using a semi-automatic handgun to do something more deliberate than pointing their gun in the general direction of the target, squeezing the the trigger, and hoping that the bullet actually hits what they wanted to hit. This may be asking a lot, I don’t know. I’d like to think that it’s not, but I could be wrong.
Proxy War ends up on a much more significant cliffhanger than the first two films. While the sophomore film ended with the death of the film’s lead, and the first film ended with Hirono deciding to take his own path, in Proxy War, the film ends with little settled – the war has begun, and it’s up to the events of the next film to settle it. The only thing clear at this film’s conclusion is it’s reiteration of the series thesis, which the past two films much more clearly expressed – the Yakuza, as a group, holds no truck with tradition or honor. The yakuza life chews you up and spits you out, and your superiors will show you no respect – not even in death.