In the style of sequels frequently met into Miike’s filmography, “Ambition Without Honor 2” includes Harumi Sone, Hideki Sone and Kojiro Shimizu in the protagonist roles, but does not continue the story of the first part in any way.
This time, the script follows Tetsuya, a young yakuza, member of the Mogami group, who returns to his family along with his sidekick, Yuji, after his adoptive father, Iwasaki, the leader of the homonymous yakuza group, is wounded in an attack from a rival gang. Soon, both his father and the doctor who was treating him, who also happens to be Tetsuya’s brother-in-law, are found dead and the Yamane group, a rival yakuza clan, seems to be the culprits. Tetsuya is torn between his loyalty to the Mogami group and his will to quit them and head the attack of the Iwasaki against the Yamane clan, with his problems becoming more intense when his uncle, Kishimoto, enters the rival headquarters with a dynamite and blows up their leader along with himself. Eventually, Tetsuya finds an unlikely ally in the face of policeman Kitahara.
One of the first things one will notice in the film is that the absurd sense of humor Miike exhibited later on is also visible here, particularly through a rival leader’s obsession with pet turtles and the episode where a woman complains that her rapist came too soon. Furthermore, the issue of Tetsuya’s dilemma between honor and family functions quite well, as does the love/hate relationship between him and Kitahara. Moreover, the final fight scene, the one with the uncle’s suicide attack and the police raid are as impressive as they are entertaining, and highlight both Miike’s directorial prowess and Keijiro Miyanishi’s cinematography. Lastly, the frequent use of guitarist music themes, courtesy of Toshiaki Tsushima, works quite well for the narrative, heightening the essence of many scenes.
On the other hand, Muneo Kishi’s writing has a number of issues, particularly regarding the villains, whose sole purpose seems to be to further the action or offer some laughs, in the case of the turtle-loving one. Further, the story is quite predictable, particularly regarding the showdown in the end, and the efforts to present a few different elements here and there are awkward and end up being completely out of context.
The acting is relatively good, with Hideki Sone as Tetsuya and Kojiro Shimizu as Kitahara playing their parts with a very fitting coolness, while Hirotaro Honda as the rival leader steals the show with his weird perversity.
“Ambition without Honor 2” is not a bad film, and is definitely better than the Maki ones, but still feels a bit subpar, particularly since Miike, by 1997, had already started on the path that would make him an international sensation.