Tak Sakaguchi, still probably best known for his iconic performance in Ryûhei Kitamura’s classic “Versus”, returns with “Yakuza Weapon”, an all-out slice of Japanese style hyperactive, ultra-violent madness. Co-directed by Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi, who previously worked together on the likes of “Battlefield Baseball” and “Cromartie High School”, the film is another Sushi Typhoon production, which should give a pretty good idea of the kind of craziness to be expected. Based on the manga by Ken Ishikawa, of “Cutie Honey” and “Getter Robot” fame, the film also features action choreography by “Versus” and “Death Trance” veteran Yuji Shimomura and special effects by the one and only Yoshihiro Nishimura, the lunatic genius behind “Tokyo Gore Police” and his own recent outing “Helldriver”.
The film kicks off with Tak Sakaguchi as Shozo Iwaki, a yakuza working as a mercenary deep in the jungles of South America, being informed of the murder of his gang boss father (Akaji Maro, “Suicide Club”). Shozo heads back to Japan and soon discovers that his father was betrayed and killed by his right hand man Kurawaki (Shingo Tsurumi, also in Takashi Miike’s “Dead or Alive”), who has now taken over the Iwaki clan for his own ends, sacrificing their old school honour by moving into the drugs trade. Flying into a rage, Shozo and his friends launch an assault against Kurawaki’s headquarters, which leaves both him and his nemesis close to death.
Despite losing an arm and a leg, Shozo survives, and wakes up in a strange government lab, finding that his missing limbs have handily been replaced by a M61 Vulcan cannon and a rocket launcher respectively, providing him with the perfect new body to finish off Kurawaki once and for all. Standing in his way is his former best friend Tetsuo (Jun Murakami, “Cutey Honey”), who has undergone a similar transformation and who now carries his own naked sister (the gorgeous Cay Izumi, who has turned up in pretty much every Sushi Typhoon production) around with him as a bizarre weapon.
Given the talent involved, and what with it being a Sushi Typhoon production, viewers should already have a pretty good idea whether or not they are likely to enjoy “Yakuza Weapon”. This is probably fair enough, as the film is very much in line with the studio’s usual output, being best described as a wilder version of “Machine Girl”, following basically the same plot and themes, though taking an even more cartoonish approach. Indeed, the film makes its intentions perfectly clear during the first few frames, with Shozo immediately being established as a near-invincible, violence prone madman with a tendency for growling and shouting, as he and his friends cut through some jungle enemies in a swathe of spraying gore. The film only notches things up from there, becoming increasingly brutal and creatively over the top, with even its quiet moments being amazingly loud and brash. Tak Sakaguchi is awesome in the lead role, entirely dominating the film with his presence, and somehow managing to make Shozo vaguely likeable despite his idiocy and penchant for attacking everyone and everything in sight.
The film is certainly action packed and violent throughout, even more so than other similarly themed efforts, and it’s hard to imagine even the most jaded of genre fans not being impressed. Yoshihiro Nishimura’s special effects are as jaw-dropping as ever, and the film gives him ample opportunities to show off his gruesomely imaginative talents, with more money shots than a piece of particularly frantic bukkake porn. As well as gore, the film also packs in some highly entertaining CGI enhanced comic book touches, with Shozo often launching himself into the air, demolishing a huge building, and even being hit by a flying boat, none of which seems to faze him in the least. Of course, most of the violence and action scenes are played for laughs as well as thrills, and the film is frequently hilarious, with some amusing Hollywood lampoons and a vaguely satirical edge, not to mention lashings of gonzo, blood-soaked slapstick.
The expected excess aside, the film is surprisingly well made, and despite its complete lack of sense does have a more competent and professional feel than other productions from the studio. To a large extent this is due to some excellent action direction, with the film managing to avoid the kind of clumsiness and low-impact nonsense which plagues the genre. Whilst this does make for a slightly odd mix of the daft and the intense, it really just adds another layer of entertainment, and helps to keep things moving at a good pace through what at 100 minutes is probably a bit of an over-stretched running time. Special mention should go to a near 5 minute long, one apparently near one-shot action sequence at the start of the final act, which harks back to the finest moments of “Versus”, and underlines that a little more thought and effort seems to have gone into the film than is usual in Japanese splatter.
The highly entertaining madness of “Yakuza Weapon” is perhaps best summed up by a scene in which Shozo’s long suffering, equally ferocious girlfriend Nayoko (Mei Kurokawa) quite reasonably asks him incredulously ‘don’t you ever die?’. Needless to say, the film is most likely to be enjoyed by fans, though is better made and markedly above average for the form, and bodes well for the continuing career of the one and only Tak Sakaguchi.
Tak Sakaguchi, Yûdai Yamaguchi (director) / Ken Ishikawa (manga), Tak Sakaguchi, Yûdai Yamaguchi (screenplay)
CAST: Tak Sakaguchi