1997. Japan. 103 minutes.
ArtsMagic DVD. Region 1. NTSC.
Directed by Takashi Miike.
“I am a self-proclaimed mad genuis scientist. But many people call me the Nutty Professor.”
Let’s take the easy route and pretend that the words above are a direct quote by director Takeshi Miike. They’re not, of course — they belong to a yellow-jacketed, leather jumpsuit-wearing outlaw doctor in this 1997 outing made for the “straight to video” market — yet they fit the popular perception about Miike in the film community. He has a wildly different reputation with certain Asian cinema fans and gorehounds as a man who delivers the goods — outrageous violence, insane plot lines, brutal nastiness.
Before the credits roll, FULL METAL YAKUZA presents a severed limb and arterial blood spray. Thereafter it settles down to tell the story of Ken Hagane, a hapless Yakuza skilled neither in debt collection nor in bed. His tattoo’s all wrong, too. He is deemed expendable by his criminal family when it comes time to execute Tosa, a fierce warrior recently released from prison. Here is where the mad doctor and his bargain-basement ideas for his own version of ROBOCOP come into play. Thereafter revenge must be exacted and friendships torn asunder.
As to explicit violence, FULL METAL YAKUZA does not disappoint. We’re treated to gunshots popping through bodies, more severed heads, body parts in a bloody bathtub, as well as sexual torture with a little bondage and necrophilia tossed in for good measure. A couple of women have most of their bodies exposed, but the scenes are anything but sexy.
Beyond the violence, the pace is sluggish through the first half, and it’s difficult to discern the line between intentional black comedy and simple over-the-top luridness. Still, despite what must have been a tiny budget, Miike displays flashes of artistry that make it impossible to dismiss the film entirely as a cheap genre exercise pandering to the lowest common denominator.
It’s an easy choice as a rental for those so inclined, but what makes the disk a possible purchase for Miike fans are the supplemental materials, which include lengthy intervews with the director and an audio commentary by writer Tom Mes. And since I only received the DVD last night, I haven’t had a chance to watch all these, but when I do, I’ll update this review.