Tokyo Drifter (東京流れ者, Tōkyō nagaremono) is a 1966 yakuza film directed by Seijun Suzuki. The story follows Tetsuya Watari as the reformed yakuza hitman "Phoenix" Tetsu who is forced to roam Japan avoiding execution by rival gangs.
The majority of the film takes place in Tokyo, but portrays the city in a highly stylized manner. The opening sequence consists of a mash of images from metropolitan Tokyo, meant to condense the feeling of the city into one sequence. The film opens in stylized black and white, which becomes vibrant color in all subsequent scenes which served to represent Tokyo after the 1964 Summer Olympics.
An old Yakuza boss named Kurata decides to retire from his criminal activities and disbands his gang. Kurata's fiercely loyal enforcer, Tetsuya "Phoenix Tetsu" Hondo, finds himself unable to enjoy a life outside of organized crime. He is hounded by a rival gang after turning down a recruitment offer by its boss, Otsuka. Otsuka seeks Kurata's retirement as an opportunity to seize his territory via a real estate scam, seeing Tetsu as a threat to his plans. Kurata is eventually forced to convince Tetsu to become a drifter.
Otsuka sends his hitman "Viper" Tatsuzo to kill Tetsu, who evades him and Otsuka's hit squad a number of times with help from a former Otsuka gang member named Kenji. Tetsu later reaches the establishment of Kurata's ally Umetani, who reveals that Kurata joined forces with Otsuka and placed a bounty on Tetsu's head. A betrayed Tetsu returns to Tokyo for a final confrontation with Otsuka, killing everyone but his former girlfriend Chiharu, and Kurata takes his own life to redeem himself. Tetsu rejects Chiharu's plea for her to accompany him on his travels, explaining that he has dedicated himself to the wanderer lifestyle and could not abandon it for another's company.