Full Metal Yakuza (1997)

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Overall Rating 60%
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After being brutally murdered in a gangster-style execution, Kensuke Hagane (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) finds himself brought back to life by a mad scientist and rebuilt as a robot-human hybrid with a serious thirst for vengeance and the tools to carry it out. --TMDb
Tsuyoshi Ujiki
Tsuyoshi Ujiki
Tomorô Taguchi
Tomorô Taguchi
Takeshi Caesar
Takeshi Caesar
Kazuki Kitamura
Kazuki Kitamura
Yûichi Minato
Yûichi Minato
Review by Ginose
Added: March 02, 2010
So, I've covered his more popular big-hitters, I've covered his early exploit and the impact it made on his career as a whole. Well, it's often the case for directors who work in the independent circles normally manage their way into the straight to video market. Well, in Japan, about the late 80s through mid-90s, there was a lot of excessive cash floating around their entertainment industry, this allowed a whole straight-to-video market to open up within itself. This "V-Cinema" was the breeding ground for all kinds of low-budget features with outrageous ideas (such as the "Guinea Pig" films) and set some great place for the footwork of up-and-coming filmmakers as well as established ones, preferring the freedom and lack of censorship that came with making films in the "V-Cinema" venue. Well, around that time Miike was getting picked-up by some distributors with the extra cash (his films already picking up a bit of popularity in the b-movie circles) and asked if he had any projects in mind. Miike had stopped and read a story in a production agency, a while earlier, and decided to try to pick it up… and, oddly enough, it all worked out pretty well.

Hagane is a would-be up-and-coming yakuza, who joined in hopes of following in the footsteps of his idle, Tosa, a captain in the same yakuza family. Well, when Tosa entrust him with the responsibility of looking after his family while he's away (arrested on the spot for killing a few members of a rival yakuza gang that evening), Hagane is struck, feeling he'll never be able to have the drive or dedication to become a great yakuza without Tosa's influence to inspire him. Well, after taking shit for quite some time (over being a coward, shit-yakuza and overall wimp) Hagane is more than excited when Tosa is finally released, being eager to be the one to escort him to all appointments he must take care of. Then, in an act of response from the previously assaulted gang, both Hagane and Tosa are gunned-down in a set-up ambush; this could never keep a good yakuza down, however, as Hagane awakes to discover he has been rescued by a mad scientist, who designed his new body with the remaining living pieces of Tosa as well as full-metal robotics, making him bullet-proof, super-powerful and extremely well-endowed. Well, after gaining his bearings and receiving proper training, Hagane decides to find out why he and Tosa were killed, and to seek revenge on all responsible.

This is possibly the first recorded case of a truly Miike-esque film from the director. He'd done similar works, but nothing as designingly silly, over-the-top, hyper-violent and just ridiculously strange as "Full Metal Yakuza". This also introduced his familiarity with yakuza lifestyle and the bonds of masculinity between every aspect of a man's life. It also seemed awful similar (be it in premise alone) to Paul Verhoeven's "Robocop"; I suppose that makes sense with Verhoeven being one of Miike's favorite directors, but it felt much more original and, overall, just a bit comedic in its criminal approach to the "Robocop" story.

Everything about it makes it feel just fresh enough to be both fun and amazingly well-realized, from the gore to the acting, to the wonderfully awkward humor; everything has a strangely crisp, inventive touch. The "defense"/"bullet-deflecting" technique Hagane practices as well as the incredibly fun, graphic and extremely gory fight-scenes make the action thick and heated, but just silly enough to fit the tone of the film.

The performances were spot-on (for this type of work) and posed the perfect comedy-position in with the overwhelmingly clever writing-style. Sure, the production comes off feeling a bit cheap at times, given it IS an action-comedy, but the whole of the movie is both entertaining throughout (even during the overly melodramatic scenes) and provided a great deal of relief to the tired gangster-revenge genre.

In short, it's too stupid to be taken seriously, but just funny, gory and action-packed enough to be a damned fine time and one of the many films in Miike's filmography that quite clearly earned the cult-status it holds to this day.

Basically, the very last scene of the film sums it all up very nicely.

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