Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Lesson in Lung Power in Yakuza Weapon: A Movie Review

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Directors: Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi.

Writers: Ken Ishikawa (original story/manga), Yudai Yamaguichi (screenplay).

Cast: Dennis Gunn, Cay Izumi and Shinji Kasahara.

Sushi Typhoon's brand gets even more comic book like in this latest release, Yakuza Weapon. This film is about certain members of the Japanese mafia at odds with one another. That can lead to some fun, and for viewers who love Tak Sakaguchi's work in Versus, Battlefield Baseball and Deadball, it is one almost worth watching. The real carnage, however, means waiting for a long grueling 70 minutes.

The build-up works on developing the character of Shozo Iwaki (Sakaguchi), but in between his shouting matches, some may wonder if this mercenary has a huge chip on his shoulder. If there`s ever an analogy to another comic book character, he would be Japan`s answer to Marvel Comic`s Wolverine. And he`s far more abrasive. And when Iwaki learns that his father was murdered by an over-ambitious crime lord wannabe, Kurawaki (Shingo Tsurumi), this young punk returns to his homeland to avenge the family name.

But this superhero cum berserker figures he can work his way up the Yakuza food chain too. He wants to dispose of everyone involved. The girlfriend from long ago even gets kidnapped by Kurawaki. Even though she is Yakuza too, the new regime is revealed to have no honour. She is an easy mark and a liability since Iwaki has feelings for her. But does he care? Heck no! Her importance in the tale gets abandoned when the violence amps up.

The films made by Sushi Typhoon will most likely never win any technical awards. Fan awards are another matter, and this movie is one where Sakaguchi should nail the loudest actor prize easily. Behind the scenes, he must have sucked down hundreds of dollars worth of throat lozenges to keep that up during filming. At least Sakaguchi shows he has range in the characters he likes to play.

Although this movie is based off the manga of the same name by Ken Ishikawa ("Cutie Honey," "Getterrobot"), the live-action tale has the hallmarks of Buchi Terasawa`s "Midnight Eye Goku". Cybernetic terrorism is just one industry Kurawaki wants to make the Yakuza`s marks on, but with Iwaki on a rampage, they are not going to get far. Not even the loss of limbs will stop him, but to reach that point in the movie is far too long.

By the time he turns into a Robocop (or ED-209), the narrative takes one huge jump. Just how Iwaki arrives at the building to take out Kurawaki really needs to be asked. The DVD release gives one answer in the deleted scenes track. The explanation of why Iwaki was rebuilt really should have been kept in. It would have helped make the last part of the film make sense and make the transition to the blood bath a little less jarring.

At least the exploration of Iwaki’s relationship is not. The dynamite welding Takuzo (Takashi Nishina) and gadget loving Santaro (Akihiko Sai) are loyal to him, and that is part of the code that the Yakuza lives by. Chivalry is also part of this code. But when either gets broken, blood will be shed. In the video release, the sequel Takuzo Weapon follows up on the tight camaraderie these two have. Takuzo is apparently jealous of Iwaki`s new abilities and he dreams of how he can be upgraded too. The humour is more off beat and enjoyable to watch than the film, and it is a welcome piece to round out this universe.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

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