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Full Metal Yakuza

Artsmagic DVD // Unrated // May 25, 2004
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted June 11, 2004 | E-mail the Author
Full Metal Yakuza (aka. Full Metal Gokudo, 1997) is trashy, fun, cyberpunk junk from director Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi The Killer, Visitor Q, Dead or Alive).

Cowardly, impotent, and a general spineless weakling, Kensuke Hagane (Tsuyoshi Ujiki- Cure) doesn't seem to have the right stuff to be ruthless, rollicking yakuza. However, this pissant gangster has a case of idol worship for upper boss Tosa. Hagane folds in the gritter jobs and eeks out a dog's life doing the menial mob tasks. After he is caught in the crossfire of a hit on Tosa, Hagane awakens to find he has been given new life by a mad scientist. Now possessing a body that is half machine/half Tosa (including Tosa's heart, arms, legs, yakuza tattoo, and, of course, massive penis) Hagane becomes an instrument of hell-bent revenge. But, when gang loyalties blur the line of who carried out the hit on Tosa, Hagane backs down, becomes a beach bum, and connects with Tosa's old girlfriend, Yukari. But, seeing him as a valuable tool, the yakuza will not let Hagane rest. They soon find that trying to manipulate him, stab him in the back, and hurt Yukari, proves to be their biggest mistake.

Part of Miike's more low budget, pure v-cinema (direct to video) oeuvre, Full Metal Yazuza's "Frankenstein" meets Tetsuo: The Iron Man concept is so outlandish and silly that it is either going to be good exploitation fun or a total disaster. Luckily Miike has risen to the higher echelon of cult genre status because he knows how to handle such material. With nonchalant balance between the good ol' ultraviolence and self acknowledging- but never self mocking- silliness, Miike churns out a crowd pleaser that varies in tone between the comic, the serious, and pure action.

While it certainly doesn't rise to level of his better known works and has a cheapness that makes old Doctor Who almost look like a Lucas production, Full Metal Yakuza will still get you through an evening. Miike fans will find familiar themes- the yakuza family politics, a spot where the film grinds to an introspective halt, an abused female character, over the top violence, and some very oddball humor. I cannot imagine the, what can only be described as "shy girl ballet shuffle", defensive maneuver Hagane uses coming from anyone else but Miike. Likewise, Hagane eating a bowl screws like it popcorn, his Col. Steve Austin track suit, and ability to punt a severed head, is the kind of absurdist Miike levity that makes such cheesy material so much fun to watch.

The DVD: Artsmagic

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. Not the greatest quality. Comparable to other iffy DVD releases of Miike's direct to video work, like Tokyo Shocks Fudoh and Kino's Dead or Alive. The low budget film isn't helped out much with this transfer. The image quality is overcast by muted tones in terms of both color and contrast. Sharpness and definition vary from scene to scene, some fairly crisp and sharp while others are a tad blurred. When it comes to this kind of feature, I'll be forgiving with these areas, however, this disc also suffers from some artifacts and edge enhancement that will make it look more and more hideous as the size of your television screen increases.

Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Japanese language with optional English subtitles. Well, the film doesn't have too may instances of dynamic audio separation or blow you out of your Lazy Boy fx. But, the audio is clear, dialogue nice and crisp, score nice and keyboard-y, so no one should be grumbling.

Extras: Chapter Selections— Bio.Filmographies for Miike and four principal actors--- Interviews: Director Takashi Miike (33:25) Editor Yasushi Shimamura (14:21) and actor Tsuyoshi Ujiki (24:08). While the video quilty is poor, the interviews are lengthy and informative, especailly the Miike interview which covers the evolution of the film- where it came from, how he approached it, and the nature of v-cinema film making.— Commentary by Tom Mes, author of "Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike." Perhaps a tad dry and overreaching for artistic significance, Mes does know plenty about Miike and his works and makes some firm observations about how the film fits in Miike's resume.--— Previews for Artsmagic anime titles [email protected] and A.L.I.C.E.

Conclusion: Good round of extras and decent presentation make this transfer well worth owning... well, at least for every b-film lover who felt he needed a comic gore, gangster, sci fi film with a pixilated cyborg mega penis. For a great Asian flavored wacky/scifi/action flick weekend, get a bunch of your friends sloshed and make them watch a double bill of Robotrix and Full Metal Yakuza.

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