|Star:||Tsuyoshi Ujiki, Shoko Nakahara, Ren Osugi, Tomorowo Taguchi|
|Cert / Year:||18 - R / 1995|
Hagane is not suited to be a Yakuza. He is a failure at everything form extortion to satisfying his woman, but he sticks with it because of his worship of Tosa, a high-ranking Yakuza member. Things change when he and Tosa are gunned down and killed by a rival faction. When he awakens he finds that a cybernetic body made of metal and bits of Tosa has replaced his body. Swearing revenge, he sets out to bring down the triads that made the hit on them. With superhuman strength and bionic powers it will take a lot to stop the full metal Yakuza.
Takashi Miike is one of the best directors working in Asian cinema. Films like Audition and Ichi the Killer have bought his superb visceral style to the attention of the West, where he has developed a reputation for his hard-hitting, shocking visuals. Full Metal Yakuza is one of his earlier films made as a straight-to-video release. It may lack the polish of his bigger budget movies but it is a fascinating and very entertaining look at his developing talents.
Many critics have said that this film is just a copy of Robocop with Yakuza replacing cops, and it is easy to see where the comparison comes from. The story is very alike, and Miike's predilection for flesh and blood is very reminiscent to Paul Verhoeven's (in fact Miike's whole directorial style is shares many similarities to Verhoeven's, which can only be a good thing). In fact the similarities go right down to the choice of camera shots used when Hagane is waking up as a cyborg. However, there are also some startling differences. For example, this film contains a lot more humour, with things becoming positively silly in places.
Although it is sometimes silly with the lack of budget it seems to be the right way to go. There is great fun to be had with Hagane's shuffling, bulletproof pose, or when he decides to play bionic football with an unfortunate mobsterís head. It's the humour that helps paper over the cheap special effects and only partially effective robot costume. Not all of the effects are bad though the moments of gore are really well implemented. With severed limbs flying around and fountains of blood you know you are in Miike territory (a place which Tarantino tried to visit in Kill Bill without such a successful directorial touch).
Bearing in mind the filmís straight-to-video roots, the cast is more than up for the job. Tsuyoshi Ujiki is a particularly effective lead as he copes well with being both a snivelling coward and an unstoppable killing machine. However our sympathy must lie with Shoko Nakahara who has to endure some pretty undignified torture scenes. The best turn in the movie though goes to Tomorowo Taguchi who is brilliant as the PVC-suit-wearing, crazy scientist.
Full Metal Yakuza is an entertaining film, full of comedy and dismembered body parts. As Takashi Miike becomes established as one of the most exciting directors working today, it provides an interesting look at his earlier work. For those not used to his particular brand of violent and bloody action it provides a good starting point. While it inevitably lacks the polish and budget of his latest films it shows what can be done with skill and imagination at this level. It may not be the best Miike film, but I can guarantee it is the best Cyborg Yakuza movie you will watch this year.
Part Man. Part Machine. All Yakuza.
|16:9 Anamorphic||Really clear picture with a slight amount of grain and a faint yellowish tinge. Overall really good given the source material.|
|Dolby Stereo||Rather flat Japanese only soundtrack. However there are some of the clearest and easy to read to read subtitles we have ever seen. We would have liked an English dubbed track as well as the subtitle options though.|
|Commentary by expert Tom Mes, which is quite interesting but you get the feeling that he knows more about Yakuza than the movie itself.|
|Interview with Takashi Miike, and while it is great to hear from the director the interview is a little slow and dull.|
|Interview with editor Yasushi Shimamura. This is much shorter but much more interesting.|
|Comprehensive filmographies for director and main cast.|
|Trailers for forthcoming ArtsmagicDVD releases.|
|For a lower budget film a good job has been done with the transfer, plus a lot of work has been done in providing quite a few extras. This is a very promising first release from ArtsmagicDVD.|