Minbô no onna (1992) Poster

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Too realistic for his own good
whofartedrecs5 September 2000
As other reviewers have pointed out, Itami was stabbed by Yakuza after the release of this film. The reason: They felt it too realistic. I suppose they feared that if the public were to find out their "secret" methods of intimidation were just a bunch of hot air, so to speak, it would soften their scare.

And so when you watch this brilliant and dynamic piece of filmmaking, remember that for as outlandish as the characters and situations may come across on screen--as "over-the-top" as it may seem--there was enough realism in the portrayal of the Yakuza mindset to ruffle a lot of feathers.

Think about the fact that there are hundreds of Yakuza movies out there and that this one was the one to stir up outright violence. It's like a Japanese "Colors"; maybe not the most realistic film, but rather a representation that captures a certain animal instinct in some people--like bottled react juice.

Itami continued to provide strong roles for women in this film. And while I agree that this film is not as "wacky" as some of his others, it has just the right combination of farce and graveness to make it a gem.

Great movie, great director. 9/10
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The movie that shows Japanese they can stand up for something.
jt428 December 1999
This is a very fine movie, definitely worth seeing, but as much as being a good film, it tells Japanese that they can stand up and act for themselves. The Yakuza have been successful at intimidation because of the Japanese propensity to feel that something is "shikata ga nai", or there's nothing they can do about it. This movie has a final scene that shows people standing up in the face of very real threats to their safety. This is not so unusual in an American movie because, for all our collective faults, there is usually someone here who will not put up with injustice and will do something heroic to change it. This is still highly unusual in Japan, and the fact that Itami Juzo made this movie and then suffered a knife attack by Yakuza for doing so, will hopefully produce a few more heroes there.
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Juzo Itami at the top of his game
mfaulcon24 January 2003
Minbo is Juzo Itami's most outrageous and entertaining film to date. Known as one of Japan's finest directors and one of its harshest social critics, Itami (who died, sadly, in 1997) took the yakuza head on in Minbo and produced a biting satire that packs more punch than a Jackie Chan double feature. Minbo is my second favorite of Itami's works, behind only the classic Tampopo. Unfortunately, I don't believe Minbo has been released on DVD. Try to get a copy on VHS. It's well worth it!
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Funny, and uplifting film...
panduh23 October 1999
This is really quite an uplifting and humorous film. The story basically revolves around a hotel that is regularly harassed by the Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia) by using civil manipulation to extort money. The hotel decides to hire a sassy, street-smart and charming lawyer, who also happens to be a woman, to help and train the hotel staff to defend itself against the Yakuza's "gentle extortion" tactics.

There are a lot of funny and charming moments in the beginning as the hotel employees try to deal with the Yakuza on their own, and fail miserably. But when Miyamoto enters the picture as the wily lawyer and employs her strategies, the movie really picks up its pace and proceeds to the uplifting and somewhat sad ending.

It is really great to see the evolution of the main characters from whimpering sissies into confident, headstrong and defiant defenders of the old hotel. You'll laugh, you'll cheer.

Definitely a must see!
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The Lawyer Saves The Day!!!???
mrpentax2 July 1999
O.K., when is the last time you saw a movie where the lawyer was the hero, and female to boot? If you like underdog films, you will LOVE minbo. It is very cleverly done and successfully demonstrates a quick wit outsmarts a quick temper, every time. The sub-titles are good and the action quick paced. Lot's a comedy and Japanese over-acting make this film just plain fun.
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Real yakuza
maurazos11 February 2007
I have been so happy and satisfied to watch that Itami's movie. I have seen so many yakuza films, from the best contemporary directors of the gender (Fukasaku, Kitano, Miike), but maybe this is the first time I had the feeling of watching a real approach to yakuza's reality. Many books and studies on Japanese cinema says that the so famous Fukasaku's "Battles Without and Humanity" gives a more real image of what yakuza is, where traditional gentlemen behaviors are substituted by more rude and bloody ones. And it's true, but anyway Fukasaku's films still provided a very unreal image of Japanese gangsters, who spread their deaths in thousands of litres of blood. Itami's "Minbo no onna" goes further and shows reality, the dark reality that yakuza does not want to be known (and because of it, Itami was attacked by some yakuza members). This movie shows us that yakuza is not another dimension of Japanese society, but it is actually a dangerous and active part of it. "Minbo no onna" is a very iconoclastic film too, because it definitely breaks the romantic image of the Japanese criminal societies and shows all their bad points: cowardice, lack of honor (they just appear to be interested on it, but they actually have no honor), pure interest on money... 100% reality. Not to be missed.
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Japanese Gangstering For Dummies
daustin6 January 1999
This is a hilarious movie. Highly recommended, very funny. Not as original and unconventional as Tampopo but very well done. Also informative. If you ever wondered how the Yakuza manage to accomplish anything despite looking like such cornballs, this movie will explain it. An A-Z of Yakuza tactics ranging from simple intimidation to their sub rosa collaboration with various shady Japanese right-wing groups. Don't miss this movie.
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Not Itami's best, but definitely worth a place in his oeuvre
movedout26 October 2006
The rumours go that the Japanese director Juzo Itami was attacked by the Yakuza due to the realistic and disrespectful portrayal of them in his 1992 comedy "The Anti-Extortion Woman" or more commonly known as "Minbo". Realistic? I can't say for sure. But was it disrespectful? Absolutely. Itami crafted a niche for himself in the early 80s and late 90s with off-kilter comic gems that reveled in their absurdity and dealt with unusual subject matter, starting with his hit, "Tampopo". This feature definitely extends that offbeat sense of humour coupled with his darkly tailored undercurrent of social criticism in a simple plot that unfortunately is neither biting nor potent enough to warrant its lengthy runtime and exaggerated mode.

Minbo according to the attorney Mahiru Inoue (Nobuko Miyamoto) is slang, a truncated term for something that lawyers understand as the gentle art of extortion used by the Yakuza. She's somewhat of an expert in these matters as we see in a promising first scene at the poolside in Hotel Europa, a first-rate hotel competing for the attention of foreign delegates. However, the hotel's reputation is tarnished with the continued presence of the different Yakuza families who use the grounds as either meeting/exchange places, lounging areas or even to cheat the hoteliers out of some yen. The boardroom decides on taking action by assembling an Anti-Yakuza force from within but only manages a schmuck accountant and a meathead bellboy, both with plenty to learn about the world they live in. After an inspired introduction to both of them, the film gets down to the nitty-gritty of them failing to get rid of these foul-mouthed, shrewd gangsters. Well, this movie isn't called "The Anti-Extortion Woman" for nothing. And after about a dubious quarter of the film, we finally get to be truly acquainted with Miss Inoue, which really puts the opening scene's purpose into perspective.

She's here for a reason and that's to help the hotel and in the process teach these men a thing or two about being men. The film is strongly attuned to its titular character with her presence alone driving the film forward in terms of its comedy and plot. She faces up to overly confident mob bosses and talks them down to the hilt with her legal expertise and well-prepared plans that rely on surveillance and the need to be vigil in the face of overwhelming threats. It's novelty wears thin after awhile though, when she uses the same strategies over and over again with the new gangsters that show up. However, it can't be understated that the film's bulk of coherence lies with these scenes as she mentors the hotel into self-defending itself against these thugs.

Nobuko Miyamoto, Itami's wife is often cast in his films in a variety of roles. Her role as Inoue is by far the strongest in the cast that is usually prone to overacting and embarrassingly over-the-top theatrics that can actually be described as vaudevillian. She brings a deep sympathy and caring into her role as a confident but never hubristic seasoned attorney that specialises in Minbo. She never talks down to the dolts in the casts and is believable in her persuasiveness with the Yakuza and Itami wisely revolves an inert comedy around her pint-sized figure being surrounded by pompous, large men that inevitably fall to her knees. She even changes a massive shift in tone by coming up strong in an uneven denouement at the end, finally wising up everyone else to the virtues of being strong even in the face of hardship.

Rating: 3 out of 5
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Another Itami Comedy - That's good.
spectrejazz14 February 2005
Like many of Itami's comedies the plot is simple, fun, and interesting. If you have ever lived in Japan, you can relate to the characters, and if you haven't you can just enjoy the immersion. The Yakuza were, and remain, an unpleasant side of Japanese everyday life. This movie gives hope to those who have been intimidated by this profession. In this story Miss Inoue, a lawyer specializing in Yakuza extortion practices teaches a group of hotel employees how to better protect their hotel's future interests. This results in lots of laughs and a few tense moments. Itami is a master. Try "Tampopo" for something a bit more off kilter. Overall I give it 8 out of 10.
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Not bad.. but there's been better from Itami
smakawhat15 August 2000
Another one of Itami's films that I felt was a little long, and had a hard time deciding if it was a comedy or drama.

Having said that however, this movie is pretty good in that it shows an interesting look at the Yakuza, and it does have some very funny scenes. Also some of the dramatics are top notch as the actors cower in fear from the Japanese mobsters (particularly when one is being threatened to have his balls.... well you know...)

Interesting.. I suppose..

Rating 6 out of 10
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Lame comedy
addick-29 February 1999
Just because you can find this title in the foreign movie section of your local video shop, don't be fooled into thinking that this is an arty, clever or even witty movie. What you will get is a lame comedy that were it in English would be derided for its bad acting, poor jokes and crass storyline. The central premise that the Yakuza are just big bullies who only need someone to stand up to them is at best simplistic if not downright dangerous, as the director himself found out when he was stabbed by the Yakuza shortly after the film's release. Top marks for a strong female lead but that, I am afraid, is the film's only redeeming feature.
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Lame Yakusa Send Up.
net_orders3 June 2018
Warning: Spoilers
MINBOU: THE GENTLE ART OF JAPANESE EXTORTION / THE ANTI-EXTORTION WOMAN / GANG-FIGHTING WOMAN (MINBOU NO ONNA). Viewed on Streaming. Director Juzo Itami's (he is also credited as story writer) fantasy about harmless (mostly) organized gang members stars his talented (and amusing) wife Nobuko Miyamoto as a fearless, one-woman Yakuza countermeasure with a law degree and claimed job experience (she has all her fingers though!). Itami's satire revolves around a gang that has adopted a luxury hotel as its alt hangout (and shake-down cash cow), and the measures taken by the owner and his wimpy employees to rid the place of this infestation. Not much happens (if you exclude excessive/repetitive mugging and hamming it up by supporting players) until about 20% into the film when Miyamoto's character is hired as a last resort to rid the hotel of it's problem. The "traditional" Japanese zero-to- hero theme this time has hotel employees evolving from cowards to stand-your-ground folks under the tutelage of Miyamoto's character. Criminal elements depicted as all-bark-and-no-bite thugs and bullies transports farce and social satire way too far into the land of make believe. The movie is overly long, and the Director may have set a new record for repetitive TV-style close-up shots (and an impoverished script riddled with mugging grunts and grimaces) in a theatrical feature. (The movie looks more like a TV-show-throw-away than a film expecting its audience to pay to view!) There is only one surprise (the nonfatal stabbing of the lawyer at the end), since all other future events have been carefully telegraphed ahead of time. Jump-cut editing of mug shots quickly becomes tedious and boring. "Score" can become ear numbing due to relentless drumming, and, overall, lacks compositional creativity. Subtitles may appear before dialog is delivered! Unless you are a hard-core Nobuko Miyamoto fan, I'd skip this one. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD. Details: streaming/restoration = 8 stars; direction = 6 stars; cinematography (semi-wide screen, color) = 6 stars; editing = 5 stars; subtitles = 4 stars; score = 3 stars.
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