Minbo: the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion (1992)

Minbo: the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion (1992)

Alternatively, a hilarious, satiric guide to dealing with pesky organized crime

The Very Best



Comedy, Crime
Akio Tanaka, Akira Nakao, Akira Takarada
123 min


Gotta lower down the volume on this one, though, with all the yelling.

What it's about

Hoping to win a lucrative contract for the upscale Hotel Europa, the owner needs to get rid of the yakuza extorting them. To do so, the hotel reassigns Suzuki, an accountant, and bell boy and former sumo club member Wakasugi, to drive the yakuza away, and all their attempts fail until they meet the brilliant lawyer Mahiru Inoue.

The take

Without context, Minbo, or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion seemed like a goofy satire, especially when the silly trumpet score pops up, and unfortunate hotel employees Suzuki and Wakasugi flounder around trying to solve the hotel’s yakuza problem on their own. And when Nobuko Miyamoto shows up as the brilliant lawyer, it’s so satisfying to see her turn the tables on the yakuza purely through words, strategy, and knowledge of law. It’s hilarious, but Minbo doesn’t just poke fun– it demystifies the gangster as a cool and untouchable figure, portraying them instead as loudmouthed bullies that we can handle. It also shows us how much can be done, only if we, as a group, perhaps as a whole nation, can muster the courage to fight.

What stands out

Juzo Itami was attacked by the yakuza due to them being offended by their portrayal in this film, and the same gang claimed that they were behind his death five years later. This does dampen the comedy, but on the other hand, it makes this film even more outstanding. It’s already tough to make a film about organized crime, but it’s also much harder and much more braver to show them as they really are in such a joyous manner.


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