Agitator is a 2001 Japanese crime film directed by Takashi Miike. The film is centered around a power struggle within the Yakuza. When a member of a powerful Yakuza clan begins to terrorize customers at their rival crime family’s nightclub, it leads to violent and deadly retaliation.
After a prominent Yakuza figure is killed, Kunihiko Kenzaki and members of his “Kenzaki Squad,” driven by a desire for revenge, take matters into their own hands. This leads to a bloody and excessive escalation of violence & death. This film is a gritty portrayal of the Yakuza lifestyle as individuals vie for more control. It explores themes of ambition, loyalty & betrayal.
How was Agitator Received Critically
Agitator received mixed reviews from critics. For example, some reviewers appreciated the complexity and vision behind it, while others found it lacking in crucial elements.
Empire Magazine gave it 2 out of 5 stars. They wrote that it had moments of “dark wit and punchy action” but “lacked story focus”.
The website hkcinema called it “a solid genre piece” with a good deal of manipulation and violence that will please fans of Yakuza pictures & Miike completists.
Asian Movie Pulse, meanwhile, stated that while the film’s dimensions and scale take away some of the tension, the vision behind it should be respected.
About the Director – Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike is a highly prolific and well-respected Japanese film director, screenwriter & actor. He was born on August 24th, 1960, in Yao, Osaka, Japan and began his career as a director in the early 1990s, debuting with his first theatrical film (Shinjuku Triad Society) in 1995. He quickly established himself as one of the most influential & controversial filmmakers Japan has ever known.
Miike is widely recognized for his diverse range of film genres, including Yakuza films, horror, comedy and even musicals. He has directed over 100 films, including feature films, television dramas, and V-Cinema productions. He has also directed several live-action adaptations of manga and anime.
Miike’s films are often known for their high levels of violence and dark humour pieces. He is considered a cult figure in the film industry and has gained fans around the world. Miike has won numerous awards for his work, including the Golden Raven award at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film, the Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival & the Best Director award at the Fantasia Festival. He has also been invited to participate in the Cannes Film Festival’s “Director’s Fortnight” section; a prestigious honour for any filmmaker.
Other Yakuza Movies by Takashi Miike
Takashi Miike has created over 100 movies, here are some other notable Yakuza-related films he has directed:
- Dead or Alive (1999) – A Japanese detective forms an unlikely alliance with a gangster to earn money to pay for his daughter’s ailing operation. The story follows the two men as they navigate the dangerous criminal underworld to achieve their goal.
- Rainy Dog (1997) – Part of the Black Society Trilogy, this film is a crime drama that tells the story of an exiled Yakuza member who is forced to flee to Taiwan after the gang he works for turns on him.
- Graveyard of Honor (2002) – Tells the story of a kitchen porter who rises through the ranks of the Yakuza, after saving the life of a crime boss. The man becomes obsessed with causing mayhem after being appointed a henchman for the Yakuza boss that he saved.
- Ichi the Killer (2001) – A sadomasochistic Yakuza enforcer (Kakihara) attempts to track down his boss’s killer. Kakihara pursues Ichi, a sadistic killer who has been manipulated into murdering gangsters. This film is well known for its extreme depiction of violence and cruelty. It was banned in several countries.
- Fudoh: The New Generation (1996) – Riki Fudoh, the surviving son of a powerful Yakuza boss, organizes a gang of teenage killers to take down his father’s organization following the murder of Riki’s brother.