Issue #209a         HOME          E-mail:        BACK ISSUES                April 26th, 2004

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Full Metal Yakuza
(1997; Tokuma Japan Communications Co./Excellent Film)


Japanese: Full Metal gokudo

RATING: 6/10


The British Artsmagic company has expanded to America and, for their premiere Region 1 release, they have chosen this uneven black comedy from the notorious Takashi Miike. Kensuke Hagane (CURE's Tsuyoshi Ujiki) dreams of being a yakuza but is a coward and hopeless screw-up, failing even at collecting debts. He is also a washout in the bedroom and gets bullied by even the lowliest of street punks. Killed during a hit by a rival mob, Hagane is transformed into a cyborg by the seriously nutty scientist Genpaku Haraga (TETSUO's Tomorowo Taguchi). Now possessing superhuman abilities and the body parts of his former boss, Tosa (who was the only one who ever showed Hagane any compassion and died trying to shield him from the bullets), Hagane sets out for revenge. His crusade has unexpected repercussions, including attracting the attention of Tosa's old flame (VISITOR Q's Shoko Nakahara) who has never fully gotten over her man.

Tsuyoshi Ujiki Tomorowo Taguchi (top), Tsuyoshi Ujiki Tsuyoshi Ujiki

An outlandish hybrid of FRANKENSTEIN and ROBOCOP that also somewhat foreshadows the director's infamous ICHI THE KILLER, FULL METAL YAKUZA will not disappoint those who treasure Miike's yen for the outrageous, serving up blood and bad taste in copious quantities (including a revolting suicide). Of more interest are the inspired satirical elements that heighten the already preposterous premise. Every time he is on the verge of short circuiting, Hagane must sing a passage from a Russian lullaby and, when low on energy, he can get a quick recharge by eating handfuls of nuts and bolts! The concept of a man/machine marriage also reaches its zenith here, with the elaborate dragon tattoo from Tosa's back grafted onto the exoskeleton (Haraga obligingly fills in two destroyed patches of skin by engraving the missing bits of design right on to the metal). Taguchi also adds to the fun with his eccentric portrayal of Haraga, who spends his spare time trying to create pinku robots out of female corpses he has bought on the black market. The dramatic content is less successful, though the film does legitimately try to develop its main characters (a strong sense of loyalty unexpectedly leaves Hagane conflicted), something no Western adaptation of such a screenplay would ever attempt in earnest. While he occasionally pays homage to beloved genres and characters (and certainly does so here with the Yakuza film), Miike relishes surprising his audience with movies that provoke unexpected reactions. FULL METAL YAKUZA is a flawed experiment but a largely interesting one, with a bit more going on under its satirical, blood-splattered surface than one anticipates from a direct-to-video throwaway.


As seems to be the case with a lot of movies made for the Japanese video market, FULL METAL YAKUZA usually only looks fair. The image is soft and dark, with weak contrasts. Fine detail jitter and jagged edges are also evident at times. However, the film appears to have been shot either on 16mm or digital video (and then processed with a system like Film Look), so there is probably not much that could have done to improve it on a video production end. Shots showing Hagane's new, much larger penis have been given the usual digital masking but this just adds to the intrinsic humor. The audio is not elaborate but nicely mixed, with effective separations. There are some minor errors in the English subtitles but they are acceptable overall.

Shoko Nakahara Tomorowo Taguchi Full Metal Yakuza!

Although they have not branded it as such, Artsmagic has included enough supplementary material for this to qualify as a special edition. First up is a good feature length commentary by Tom Mes, author of AGITATOR: THE CINEMA OF TAKASHI MIIKE. Mes does talk about the film at hand but spends much of the track discussing Miike's career, his working methods, and the careers of the performers, among other subjects. He occasionally drifts into play-by-play but the discussion serves as a very useful primer on contemporary Japanese cinema. Miike himself is featured in a 33 minute interview, which finds the soft-spoken director discussing the origins of the project, while also touching upon the inner workings of the industry and the creative freedom directors making DTV films have (as long as the movie sells about 4000 copies, it will be profitable, thus making studio interference all but non-existent). Editor Yasushi Shimamura (14 minutes) talks about how he and Miike first hooked up and the director's preferences as to how his movies are cut, and star Tsuyoshi Ujiki (24 minutes) discusses his background as a rock singer and approach to acting. He also sites Eddie Murphy's COMING TO AMERICA as his favorite movie! (The interviews are all in Japanese with permanent English subtitles) Bios/filmographies and trailers for two upcoming Artsmagic releases are also part of the package. The disc streets May 25th.

This DVD is available at:

Images in this review courtesy of Artsmagic. To read captions, hover mouse over image.

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Copyright © John Charles 2000 - 2004. All Rights Reserved.

DVD Specifications

  • U.S. Release
  • NTSC -- Region 1 Only
  • Artsmagic #ATU 001
  • Dolby Digital 2.0
  • Sync Sound Japanese Language
  • Subtitles (Optional): English
  • 14 Chapters
  • 16:9 Enhanced (1.78:1)
  • 103 Minutes

Ratings & Consumer Information

  • Germany: 16 (cut)
  • Great Britain: 18
  • Contains brutal violence, sexual violence, sexual content, and coarse language


  • 10 A Masterpiece
  • 9 Excellent
  • 8 Highly Recommended
  • 7 Very Good
  • 6 Recommended
  • 5 Marginal Recommendation
  • 4 Not Recommended
  • 3 Poor
  • 2 Definitely Not Recommended
  • 1 Dreadful