Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

My first Miike was ‘Audition’.  If you are going to start watching the films of Japanese Director Takashi Miike I personally would not recommend that you begin this disturbed odyssey with ‘Audition’.  Arguably Miike’s best film, it’s also, of the Miike films that I have seen, his most straight forward and contained film.  Not to say that ‘Audition’ doesn’t have traditional Miike shocks, jolts and surprises but for a Miike film it is fairly subdued and doesn’t adequately prepare you for the Ichi’s, Katakuri’s, and DOA’s of the world.  This leads to Miike’s 1997 Straight to Video offering ‘Full Metal Yakuza’ which would probably qualify a good starting primer to disturbed work Takashi Miike.

All Kensuke Hagane (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) ever wanted to be was Yakuza.  From the time he first saw Tosa-san’s (Takeshi Caesar) dragon tattoo he knew what his path would be.  Problem is Hagane is a weak, cowardly, limp dicked slush.  He is unable to complete even the most mundane gangster tasks, is unable to satisfy his girlfriend and is often bullied by even common teenage street thugs.  Nonetheless, hard ass Yakuza sub boss Tosa-san still takes a liking to him and entrust care of his family to Hagane while he serves a seven year sentence for some unfortunate butchery. 

When Tosa-san is released from custody, sadly his usefulness to the gang has been outlived and he and his driver, Hagane, are taken out in a hail of gunfire.  Three months later or so Hagane wakes up as a cyborg, merged with leftover parts from Tosa and himself by a ‘nutty professor’ (Genpaku Hiraga) giving Hagane super strength, speed, hearing, and super gonads.  Revenge is now on his mind, bloodspray, decapitations and mayhem will follow.

A mix of Robocop and Miike’s own Ichi the Killer, to say this is uneven and full of plot holes would be a wee bit of an understatement.  There is a plot thread opened up where the nutty professor seems to be working for someone, but it’s never explained or revisited.  The pacing is off as the movie never seems to find any particular kind of rhythm, which is unexpected in a Miike directed joint.  As the director explained in an interview on the DVD there were significant budgetary restraints which would probably explain some of the long stretches of nothingness, and meaningless dialog that the film was peppered with, but that it still supplies enough arterial spray, total misogyny, prosthetic penises, and the utter nonsense that one would expect from a Miike film.  I almost expect the plan was to make a number of these on the low budget and spit them out, but obviously this never materialized.

Overall, ‘Full Metal Yakuza’ was disappointing, made even more so because the film was directed by Takashi Miike.  It still features some of the director’s signature style, but was far to uneven, lacked the flow to recommend to anyone except rabid Miike fans, or anyone attempting start watching this psycho’s collection of work.  I’ve said it before, thank God this dude is making movies because otherwise you’d have a serious problem on your streets Tokyo.

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