Yakuza Weapon 極道兵器
Fantasy gangster drama
2011, colour, 16:9, 104 mins
Directed by Sakaguchi Tak (坂口拓), Yamaguchi Yudai (山口雄大)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 15 July 2011, 18:57 PM (HKT)
Bionic yakuza drama takes a while to get into action/splatter gear. Genre events.
South America, the present day. Following an argument with his father, yakuza boss Iwaki Kenzo (Maro Akaji), hot-headed young Iwaki Shozo (Sakaguchi Tak), aka "Mad Dog", has been working as a mercenary in South America for four years with his friends Takuzo and Santaro. Through sheer self-belief in his power as a true yakuza, he has become impregnable to bullets. He's visited by Akao Torahiko, a secret agent from the Japanese government, who tells him his father has been killed in a gang war. Returning to Japan, Shozo finds the Iwaki Family has fallen apart and is now controlled by Shimada, previously a junior officer in the gang. Another former junior officer, Kurawaki (Tsurumi Shingo), has become Tokyo's crime lord and is rumoured to have been responsible for the death of Shozo's father. Kurawaki wants to unite all of Japan's gangs under his leadership but is meeting resistance, especially from female yakuza Nayoko (Kurokawa Mei), whom Kurawaki has always fancied but who has a special weakness for Shozo. Meanwhile, Shozo's longtime friend and sparring partner Okamura Tetsu (Murakami Jun), now a drug addict, has escaped from jail to find his younger sister Sumire (Izumi Cay) raped and killed by his enemies. After Kurawaki kidnaps Nayoko to his HQ, Shozo rescues her but loses an arm and a leg in the battle. Under a top-secret bionics programme Akao turns him into the ultimate Yakuza Weapon, with an M61 Vulcan machine-gun in his arm and a rocket launcher in his kneecap, to do battle with Kurawaki and his backers, international crime syndicate Death Drop Mafia. However, Kurawaki has got the vengeful Tetsu on his side, and bionically turned Sumire into a naked killing machine.
After the high level of Karate-Robo Zaborgar 電人ザボーガー (2010), Nikkatsu's Sushi Typhoon series drops a couple of notches with the sixth entry, Yakuza Weapon 極道兵器 (2011), a vehicle for martial artist SAKAGUCHI Tak 坂口拓 (Versus ＶＥＲＳＵＳ (2000), Samurai School 魁！！男塾 (2007)), who also co-directed with frequent partner YAMAGUCHI Yudai 山口雄大 (Battlefield Baseball 地獄甲子園 (2003)), that's based on a 1996 manga by the late ISHIKAWA Ken 石川賢. In the same weapons-for-bodyparts genre as the Tetsuo: The Iron Man 鉄男 (1989) series and The Machine Girl 片腕マシンガール (2007), the movie takes a long while to decide whether it's just a spoof yakuza movie or a real action/splatter feast, but finally gets into gear at the hour mark when its braggadaccio hero Shozo gets bionic surgery and takes on the bad guys.
Sakaguchi makes an agile hero who's already halfway to hell when the film begins, and talks tough with the best of them — including singer-actress KUROKAWA Mei 黒川芽以 (the husband's sister in Sweet Little Lies スイートリトルライズ (2009)), here transformed into a gruff yakuza who has a soft spot for the loose-cannon Shozo. TSURUMI Shingo 鶴見辰吾 makes a suitably mad villain and MURAKAMI Jun 村上淳 a lower-key best friend who's always trying to prove himself against Shozo. When the action really gets on a roll, there's a memorable, four-and-a-half-minute single take as Shozo fights his way up a building from the locker room. That's then capped by the appearance of a female bionic weapon which shows the kind of inventive lunacy the movie is short on till that point.
Until then, however, there's a sameness about all the growling and yakuza bravado that doesn't make Yakuza Weapon particularly special for those who haven't read the original manga (glimpsed during the end titles). Technical credits are average, with no special visual style and close, hand-held camerawork dominating. The film is dedicated to manga artist Ishikawa, who died in 2006 at the age of 58.
ContactSales: Nikkatsu, Tokyo (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Premiere: Yubari Fantastic Film Festival (Yubari Choice: Japan Film), 27 Feb 2011. Theatrical release: Japan, 23 Jul 2011.
Presented by Nikkatsu (JP), AG-One (JP). Produced by Stairway (JP). Executive producers: Sugihara Akifumi, Nakanishi Takashi. Producers: Chiba Yoshinori, Takashino Shuichi, Kimura Toshiki.
Script: Yamaguchi Yudai, Sakaguchi Tak. Manga: Ishikawa Ken (1996). Photography: Oka Masakazu. Editing: Hori Zensuke. Music: Morino Nobuhiko. Production design: Fukuda Nori. Sound: Ika Makio. Action: Shimomura Yuji. Character design: Ishikawa Ken. Special make-up effects: Nishimura Yoshihiro, Hyakutake Tomo. Visual effects: Kazuno Tsuyoshi.
Cast: Sakaguchi Tak (Iwaki Shozo), Tsurumi Shingo (Kurawaki), Kurokawa Mei (Nayoko), Maro Akaji (Iwaki Kenzo, Shozo's father), Murakami Jun (Okamura Tetsu), Yamanaka Arata, Izumi Cay (Sumire, Tetsu's younger sister), Pe Jyonmyon, Nishina Takashi, Sai Akihiko, Shimazu Kentaro, Omori Hiroshi, Washizu Ayano, Kasahara Shinji, Dennis Gunn, Yoshida Yuken, Morimoto Nobu, Aoyagi Takaya, Kuroda Kohei, Kido Takahiro, Kodama Takuro, Z1 Shiko Koide, Big Murakami, Kuroishi Takahiro.