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This movie is absurd. I mean that in a good way. The whole thing is over the top.
Review by Matthew Anderson
Live Action Made for DVD Film
Company: Artsmagic DVD
Running Time: 103 minutes
Rated: R (Violence, nudity, language, sex, and adult situations)
THE FOLLOWING REVIEW IS ONE OF AN ADULT NATURE. PARENTAL DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
Hagane is perhaps the worst gangster in the history. He can't fight, he can't be bully people, he can't even give a woman pleasure. The only thing he has done right is keep safe the wallet of a major Yakuza boss named Tosa who is in prison for murder.
When Tosa is released, Hagane is sent to pick him up. Things quickly go sour, as he finds himself an incidental victim of a mob hit. Now he truly is pathetic.
All that changes when he awakes in the lair of a mad scientist named Hiraga. Hagane learns that after the hit, Hiraga took Hagane's head, and placed it on the body of his former boss. Taking things one step further, Hiraga also has enhanced the body with some state of the art technology.
Now Hagane is out to get revenge on those who betrayed him and his boss, even if means destroying every member of the Yakuza to do so.
DVD VISION TEST
VIDEO: A great looking transfer. The colors are perfect, there are almost no pixels, no wrinkles, and only some slight edge enhancement.
AUDIO: I was quite surprised at how good the Japanese 2.0 track sounded. The audio was crisp and clean, with no mono hiss. There was even some decent directionality during the action segments.
On the 2.0 audio commentary, the voice of Tom Mes is loud and clear. The sound from the movie is in the background, but you can barely hear it.
EDITS: Nothing has been touched. It's 100% unedited.
EXTRAS: Tons of extras on this DVD. First up is an informative audio commentary by Takashi Miike expert and author Tom Mes. Next is are a series of interviews with Director Takashi Mike, editor Yasushi Shimamura, and FMY star Tsuyoshi Jijki. Last, we have text bio's for the director and the main leads.
STORY: In the hands of a lesser director, "Full Metal Yakuza" would have been just another cheap-ass revenge flick. With so many different people working on this (there Fujio Matsushima who planned it, Hiroki Yamaguchi who did the story, and Itaru Era doing the script) it could have been a royal mess. Thanks to Miike's and Era's warped sense of style, this is an interesting and bizarre addition to the "Yakuza Eiga" genre.
ACTING: I'm not sure of what to make of the Japanese cast. So much of this movie is over exaggerated, it's really difficult to determine if their goofy performances are by design or by accident. The goofiest actor is star Tsuyoshi Jijki. If he was playing the part for laughs, despite the serious subject mater, then he went above and beyond. The same goes for the insane Hiraga, played by Tomorowo Taguchi. His actions are so over the top, they border on the absurd.
The only one who really played their part well was the very sexy Shoko Nakahara. Veteran of several Miike films, she makes Yukari more than just a gangster's floozy. She is a woman who has stayed true to herself while living in a world of sadness and terror.
FAN SERVICE: There is some nudity, a rape scene, and a sex scene, none of it erotic. You can see plenty of visual references to cult classic film "Robocop".
My first cinematic experience with Takashi Miike's was his coffin black dark comedy "Visitor Q". One of the most bizarre films ever put to digital video, there was no denying Miike's intensity or unique visual style. Thanks to "Visitor Q", I was expecting the same kind of aberrant filmmaking.
Full Metal Yakuza was very different. Not bad, just different.
On my initial viewing, I was extremely disappointed. Sure, "Visitor Q" was a train wreck of a movie, but you were compelled to watch the debauchery that would explode on screen. "Full Metal Yakuza" was very visceral, very brutal, but not very shocking. I found the story and the over acting rather silly, and I wasn't very interested in the predictable outcome.
A few weeks later, I put this movie back in my DVD player, ready to have another go at it. As I watched, I told myself not to compare it to "Visitor Q". After a couple of screenings, I found that "Full Metal Yakuza" was more than just a "Yakuza Eiga" film. It actually was a warped comedy, disguised as an action film.
This movie is absurd. I mean that in a good way. The whole thing is over the top. The characters are intended to be farcical versions of gangsters. The action scenes are bloody, full of raw "Reservoir Dogs" style violence. Even the typical ending has a totally off the wall hook. Once you understand that this movie is supposed to be silly and campy, not a serious drama, then you will find yourself laughing your ass off.
Tsuyoshi Jijki is very good at using his body to show how un-manly he is. He gives Hagane a permanent slouch. When he walks, it seems very awkward. When he become "RoboYakuza", he may be standing tall, but he is still got an awkward gait to him. His face is also too nice to be a hard edge killer.
The more I watch, the more I have become enraptured with Shoko Nakahara. The sensitivity she gives the character, the sad look in her eyes, and the way she draws you in, puts her a step above most B-Movie actresses. For some reason, Miike always seems to put her in very degrading situations. I give her major props for taking on these roles.
The award for the biggest "Freakazoid" character goes to Tomorowo Taguchi. This refugee from a Michael Ninn video goes beyond over the top. He should have been in Visitor Q! His screwball quips, his odd dress sense, and the whole exposing himself thing makes him one of the strangest characters ever in Japanese Video Cinema. He makes the cross dressing Masayoshi Nogami in Zero Woman: Dangerous Game seem normal. Really, you have to see to believe.
I give Miike credit for using the most of what he has. The special effects (and I use that term loosely) may be crap, but at least they are visceral. Boy are they! If a Japanese film must contain heaping amounts of gore, and buckets of blood, then this film is for you. Just remember, the budget was very low, about $70,000! So if you are expecting "Robocop" level SFX, forget it.
Artsmagic DVD understands what makes a cult film, and the presentation of the DVD shows this. The audio commentary on this DVD is outstanding. Tom Mes is truly an expert on the films of Takashi Miike. He passes on a lot of information, not only about the director, but the "made-for-video" market in Japan. Once you watch this movie, immediately watch it again with the commentary. You will learn a lot.
The interviews with Director Miike, lead Tsuyoshi Jijki, and editor Yasushi Shimamura are also interesting. You learn from Miike that the idea for the film was just a loose concept until Miike and the writing team got their hands on it. He also tells us how the "made-for-video" market has changed from budgets of 40 Mill Yen ($400,000) to almost nothing. Like the Tom Mes commentary, you learn a lot from Miike and his cohorts.
"Full Metal Yakuza" may not be the best "revenge" flick out there, but it certainly is pure Takahashi Miike. This is one of those "love it or hate it" movies. Those of you who enjoy the films of director Miike, or just want to see some off the wall stuff, then by all means pick this one up. Thanks to the solid work by Artsmagic DVD, you cult film enthusiasts will be pleased with the presentation.
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