American Yakuza

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American Yakuza
Directed by Frank Cappello
Produced by Don Philliips
Michael Leahy
Aki Komine
Screenplay by John Allen Nelson
Max Strom
Story by Takashige Ichise
Starring Viggo Mortensen
Ryo Ishibashi
Michael Nouri
Music by David C. Williams
Cinematography Richard Clabaugh
Edited by Sonny Baskin
Distributed by Toei Company
(1993 theatrical)
Release date
  • December 22, 1993 (1993-12-22) (Japan theatrical)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

American Yakuza is a 1993 American action film written by Takashige Ichise with a screenplay by John Allen Nelson and Max Strom, and directed by Frank Cappello for First Look International.[1] Starring Viggo Mortensen and Ryo Ishibashi, the film had its theatrical release in Japan in December 1993, followed by theatrical release in South Korea in 1994. The film had its video premiere in the United States in 1995 and its DVD premiere in Russia in 2002.


American FBI agent Nick Davis (Viggo Mortensen) works undercover, rising through the ranks of the Yakuza to infiltrate their operations. Adopted by the Tendo crime family, he is entangled with the Italian Mafia, the Yakuza, and the FBI. In the end he must decide what is most important to him.

Partial cast[edit]

Critical response[edit]

TV Guide wrote that director Frank Cappello did "an adequate job of weaving a relatively intricate storyline together, while delivering numerous explosive, action-packed sequences", offering that Viggo Mortensen excelled in his performance, and Ryo Ishibashi was impressive in his role. They concluded that overall, American Yakuza "is a surprisingly powerful portrayal of the loyalties that exist in the underworld, where violence and betrayal are a way of life."[2]

Reviewer Anton Bitel wrote after considering Viggo Mortensen's acting in this 1993 film, and how he is better remembered now as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films, this one "will leave viewers wondering why Mortensen’s talents were not generally recognized a lot earlier." He also notes that one of the film's ironies is that when the Mafia takes on the Yakuza in the film and "boast of their 'American drive and know-how'", they forget the similarities in that a century earlier they were just as eager as the Yakuza "to get a foothold in this country”. Bitel feels that "American Yakuza is in effect ‘The Godfather: the next Generation’ – an immigrant saga of family, blood and assimilation that just happens to be set in the world of organized crime." He found flaws in that parts of the film "have the look of a rock video" and overall suffers from needing a larger budget. He concludes with praise for the acting, twisting plotline, and the carefully restrained violence.[3]


  1. ^ "American Yakuza (1994)". InBaseline. The New York Times. Retrieved August 29, 2011. 
  2. ^ "American Yakuza: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved August 29, 2011. 
  3. ^ Anton Bitel. "review: American Yakuza (1993)". Movie Gazette. Retrieved August 29, 2011. 

External links[edit]