Shingo TsurumiKentaro ShimazuYoshihiro NishimuraAkaji Maro
Yakuza Weapon
Medium: film
Year: 2011
Writer/director: Tak Sakaguchi, Yudai Yamaguchi
Original creator: Ken Ishikawa
Country: Japan
Keywords: yakuza
Language: Japanese, English [a smidgin]
Actor: Dennis Gunn, Cay Izumi, Shinji Kasahara, Mei Kurokawa, Akaji Maro, Jun Murakami, Yui Murata, Yoshihiro Nishimura, Takashi Nishina, Hiroshi Ohmori, Jyonmyon Pe, Akihiko Sai, Tak Sakaguchi, Kokone Sasaki, Kentaro Shimazu, Shingo Tsurumi, Marc Walkow, Ayano Washizu, Arata Yamanaka
Format: 105 minutes
Website category: Japanese
Review date: 7 August 2013
It's a silly Japanese action movie. It doesn't have ridiculous fountains of gore and enough bizarre prosthetics for Dr Moreau, but that just means it has a different kind of silliness instead.
Its selling point is Tak Sakaguchi. I'm a fan. Sakaguchi started out as an underground street fighter recruited by Kitamura for Versus, but went on to act in more mainstream roles as well as writing and directing. This film sees him doing all those things, except for the "more mainstream" bit. To be honest, I wouldn't go out of my way to watch something written by him, while he's clearly not a trained actor and he doesn't have the greatest emotional range. There's a scene here where he loses a childhood friend and he's merely okay in it. However I loved him to bits when he was playing a camp evil Professor Xavier in Mutant Girls Squad and I think he's got star quality in spades. There's no end to his charisma... but unfortunately here he's stuck in a role that's one-dimensional and not inherently sympathetic.
He's playing the Yakuza Weapon, obviously. At first he's simply indestructible. We meet him as he's strolling into a jungle firefight with the U.S. military, saying, "Bullets only hit you if you're afraid of being hit." Imagine superhuman levels of swagger, with extra swagger on top. He gets out a cigarette as the air around him becomes 50% lead. He lights it. He just stands there, posing for the camera. Then he pulverises everyone.
Sakaguchi's invulnerability is on a par with Spider-Man rather than Superman, though. It's just that he's so macho about it that it's funny. He stands on a land mine. "Big deal. Make it go off with me. Willpower!" Next shot: CGI explosion. However nothing compares with the moment where he's hit by a flying boat. (Who threw it? No idea. Doesn't matter.)
Sakaguchi returns to Japan and learns that his father's organisation has been taken over by Shingo Tsurumi, who wants to unite all of Japan's yakuza under him and has made an alliance with foreigners! These are the Death Drop Mafia, they practically own the U.S. military (eh?) and they sell Hyper Drug, which is a hundred times worse than ordinary drugs. Sakaguchi doesn't approve, but with him it's any excuse for a fight. He kills a man so violently that the gore splatters from the other end of a telephone line (having mysteriously turned pink), then goes after Tsurumi and gets an arm and a leg shot off by a helicopter gunship.
This is when he becomes the Yakuza Weapon. It's a bit like RoboCop, but sillier and capable of looking like his old, human (?) self. This is mildly amusing, but I actually preferred him without technological augmentation. Did he need it? I don't think so.
Unfortunately Sakaguchi's character doesn't know how to have a conversation that doesn't involve trash-talking. He talks like every yakuza movie you've ever seen, but on steroids. He shouts his dialogue and if it were in English, half of it would be swear words. He's being macho enough to give you testosterone poisoning and the actor's natural charisma is getting little room to breathe. He shouts. He kills. He shouts some more. He has a childhood friend, Tetsu, who supplies most of the film's attempted emotional power. (My attention wandered a bit during some of it.) Sakaguchi's character just isn't a particularly interesting person, although it's clearly still him holding it together despite this because the film gets muddier and duller when he's not on-screen.
Sometimes he's funny, e.g. when not yet in control of his weapons. He could have perhaps given us more subtleties of emotion, but I'm sure a lot of that is deliberate. The Yakuza Weapon isn't exactly a deep or thoughtful person. Besides, I like Sakaguchi's clarity with what's going on inside his character. You always feel you know exactly what's going on in there.
Besides, Sakaguchi only had twelve days to shoot the film. Rough edges are understandable. He ended up bringing in Yudai Yamaguchi (Tamami: The Baby's Curse) as co-writer and co-director. It's also based on a manga by Ken Ishikawa, the co-creator of Getter Robo and considered by Go Nagai his greatest friend and ally.
Other stuff worth noting:
(a) It's not just a boys' club. Mei Kurokawa's character can trash-talk all the men, has a nice line in put-downs for the villain and gets emotional material that works reasonably well.
(b) The Naked Human Weapon.
(c) Naming a nuke after the one that fell on Hiroshima... hmmm, tasteful. And was that Mount Fuji?
This isn't a horrible film. It's just nothing particularly special either. It's okay. Its main character is played by Tak Sakaguchi and sometimes it's funny. It has quite a good finale. It has lots of CGI explosions and even CGI gore, as you'd expect. It has a theme of yakuza loyalty that would have meant more if Sakaguchi had been trying to layer it into his performance. I didn't hate the film, but I also wouldn't recommend it.
"Government certified yakuza!"