An arms deal goes sour when one Yakuza clan intercepts a rival’s shipment and slaughters its escort. The police believe the shoot-out part of a turf war, but independent detective Tajima’s (Jo Shishido, Gate of Flesh) instincts put him onto the truth. The sole survivor, Manabe (Tamio Kawaji) isn’t talking, and Yakuza eager to kill him surround the jail (shades of Rio Bravo). Tajima offers to get Manabe out and use the good will he generates to infiltrate his gang and find out what is really going on. Once Tajima is in, he needs to work very hard to get the gang to trust him, and to stay alive once they do.
Detective Bureau 2-3 is one of director Seijun Suzuki’s earlier, less outlandish films, but that is not to say that it doesn’t bear his mark. It is a wonderfully stylish crime thriller tinged with comedy. It is especially welcome to see lead Shishido drawn into a song-and-dance number by his lounge singer friend. There are little Suzuki touches, such as characters changing locations in the middle of a conversation, but they are more limited than in his later, wilder films. Mostly this is just a fun, swinging take on the crime genre, with goofy, Dixieland Jazz inspired nightclub numbers, bright colors, cool tough guys in sweet suits not taking life too seriously, and nice touches like Tajima’s father being a fake Catholic priest. If you’ve never seen a Seijun Suzuki film, by all means, start with his classics (may I suggest Tokyo Drifter), but be sure and check this one out if you like what you see.
The opening scene: