Blue Hill Avenue isn't the most original film, but it is a cut above most of the other direct-to-video urban films that have been steadily cluttering up video-store shelves for the past several years. For one thing, Craig Ross is a talented filmmaker, as evidenced by his earlier, seldom-seen thriller Cappuccino. Not only does Ross know how to tell a story, he knows how to work with limited resources and still deliver maximum results. As a writer, Ross is not only clearly influenced by such classic films as Super Fly and Black Caesar, but he also appears to have studied the works of crime novelist Donald Goines.
And make sure you check out the audio commentary by Ross and actors William L. Johnson and Aaron D. Spears. These three provide one of the best and funniest play-by-plays in recent memory.
Graveyard of Honor (1976)--Best known for his yakuza films, depicting morally corrupt Japanese gangsters on self-destructive rampages, Kinji Fukasaku is credited with reinventing the yakuza film in the 1970s, first with his 1972 film Street Mobster and then with the Battles Without Honor and Humanity series. But it is 1975's Graveyard of Honor that is considered to be his true masterpiece. Brimming with the requisite nihilism and the breakneck kinetic energy that are Fukasaku's trademarks, as well as the rollercoasterlike cinematography of Hanjiro Nakazawa, this is a great introductory film to the work of Fukasaku and the yakuza genre.
Inspired by the life of notorious Japanese gangster Rikio Ishikawa (Tetsuya Watari), Graveyard of Honor is to the Japanese yakuza film what Goodfellas is to the American gangster film (with a touch of Scarface thrown in for good measure). But seeing as how Fukasaku's film predates both Scorsese's and De Palma's classics, it's important to place Graveyard of Honor in its proper place, at the highest ranks of gangster film.