A text intro serves to act as an extremely brief history of the yakuza, focusing primarily on the Japanese gangsters’ strict code of ethics. Their strong commitment to chivalry and loyalty, we’re told, is known as ‘jingi’. Dishonour this code, the text informs us, and all hell will break loose …
Then we’re off to the jungles of South America, which is where we first meet yakuza boss’ jaded son Shozo (Tak Sakaguchi). He’s there with his faithful if slightly inept mates Takuzo (the dynamite expert) and Sansaro (the strong silent type) to play the part of mercenaries, looking to infiltrate the war there and bring down their notorious rival, Captain Joseph.
This they do with relative, if explosive (literally), ease – thanks to Shozo’s naturally fearless nature. Then comes the first of many unexpected plot points when they’re accosted afterwards by a couple of government agents, sent to locate Shozo and inform him of his father’s violent demise.
Despite having left his father on bad terms some four years previously, Shozo feels compelled to return to Japan and check out rumours that the family business – his to inherit, surely – has been taken over by opposing mob families. Takuzo and Sansaro, of course, follow him loyally.
Within minutes of parachute-landing into Japan, the trio come across Shozo’s dad’s old loan shop – and are disturbed to find it being ran by a group associated with rival mobster Kurawaki. What’s worse, their leader is Shimada: an old adversary of Shozo’s (and one who bears a curious resemblance to an Asian Rab C Nesbitt).
Guess what? A major fight erupts.
Yep, uber cool Shozo is back in town and he wants his stake of his late father’s business. Somewhere at the top of a high-rise tower block not so far away, this news displeases the mysterious Kurawaki (Shingo Tsurumi).
Kurawaki, we soon learn, is attempting to monopolise gangster activity in Japan by taking over every yakuza family. Despite some resistance, his arrogance seems to be paying off. No-one appears to be up to the task of challenging him … until Shozo’s return.
But, as fearless as Shozo may be, even he must admit to being a little set back when his extremities are blown to pieces in a machine gun-heavy attack.
Thank the Lord for the miracle of modern surgery, then, as he is whisked off to a specialist hospital and modified into a part-human part-cannon killing machine not to be fucked with …
Obvious references in terms of plot would be ROBOCOP and THE MACHINE GIRL. But a more accurate comparison to co-directors Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi’s adaptation of the late Ken Ishikawa’s Manga tale would be across between ICHI THE KILLER, THE MATRIX and TETSUO 2: BODY HAMMER.
YAZKUZA WEAPON does retain an ID of its own though, thanks to some curious humour that surprisingly works, and oodles of style in even the most bloodthirsty set-pieces. The pace is unrelenting and performances negligible, but the camerawork and editing are proficient as are the stirring score and superbly lit compositions.
For a film so well shot, looking at times like a Scorsese gangster flick, it’s a shame that this finesse is compromised by budget-revealing facets such as some truly pitiful CGI work. Even the prosthetics-led gore stuff is ropy, but at least that gets away with it in that ‘old school’ manner.
It’s all pretty mental stuff, from dildo torture to people shooting missiles out of their kneecaps and beyond: fast-paced and frantic, there’s barely time to think about how nonsensical it all is.
It is fun, then, ultimately. But it’s also a little too long at 105 minutes in length.
The film is presented in uncut form for its UK debut on blu-ray. The picture presentation is offered as an MPEG4-AVC file, bringing the film to us in 16x9 enhanced 1080p HD.
Colours are stronger than is normal for Japanese films. Images are fairly sharp for the duration too, while textures are clean throughout. Blacks are the only minor shortfall here, lacking the strength of superior transfers.
Japanese audio is provided in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. As you’d imagine, it’s a barnstormer of a track, utilising all channels and plenty of bass to kick the viewer’s arse during the many action-packed set-pieces.
Optional English subtitles are well-written and easy to read.
A static main menu page contains pop-up menus, among which is a scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 12 chapters.
Extra features begin with an isolated music track that can be selected to be played alongside the film.
6 minutes of deleted and extended scenes are presented in HD, but are neither here nor there.
Much better is the 46-minute Making Of documentary. This proffers a surprising amount of entertaining information, from behind-the-scenes footage to video diary-style insights from principal crew members. The explanation of the Sushi Typhoon production team and its motives (including wanting to make a film that will be loved for the next 50 years …) is good, as are the sound-bites from the co-directors in particular.
‘Takuzo’s Weapon’ is a short film which allows the comedic characters of Takuzo and Sansaro 15 minutes of more screen time. The content is somewhat repetitive and the humour a tad excruciating, but there is something oddly charming about this mini-feature anyhow. Basically, the silly storyline carries the serious message: "careful what you wish for".
‘Toki’s Wedding Part 1’ is the 14-minute first half of a faux documentary, the second half of which can be found on the DEADBALL DVD.
‘The Tower of Kurawaki’ is 5 minutes of Troma-style silliness, as Kurawaki’s 36 assassins are paraded in front of the camera to show off their bumbling, cartoonish wares.
An on-stage cast and crew Q&A session is brief at only 6 minutes in length, but fun to see it being hosted by filmmaker Noboru Niguchi in full character costume.
23 minutes of on-stage discussion between the co-directors and Manga artist Go Nagai is better, the trio being startlingly gracious to one another and displaying real passion for their subject. Check out Sakaguchi too – he dresses like Mike Patton, circa 1989.
Finally, the film’s 2-minute trailer is as high-octane as you’d expect it to be.
YAKUZA WEAPON is zany, for certain. But it’s also very well made, nicely shot and filled to brimming with outrageous, violent action.
It looks good here too.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Bounty Films|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|