ArtsMagic hooked me up with an advance of this and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Here's my review.
Full Metal Yakuza (AKA Full Metal Gokudo)
1997 Tokuma Japan Communications/Excellent Film
2004 Region 1 DVD, ArtsMagic DVD
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Tsuyoshi Ujiki, Shoko Nakahara, Tomorowo Taguchi, Ren Osugi, Takeshi Caesar, Yasushi Kitamura, Koji Tsukamoto, Kaoru Nanaki
The movie tells the story of Keisuke Hagane, a bumbling, low-ranking Yakuza who is picked on by fellow gang members and street punks. He can't fight, he's generally a coward, has a small penis and generally fails at everything he attempts. However, his boss Tosa likes him so he remains a member of the gang. After his boss is released from a seven year prison term, Keisuke meets Tosa at the prison to give him a ride home. Upon arriving they are greeted by a pair of assassins and both Keisuke and Tosa are killed in a hail of bullets. The film then segues to Keisuke waking up in a laboratory then going on a walk in which he is given the opportunity to discover some of his new powers. He is now inhumanly strong, has super hearing and is predominantly made of metal. The rest of the film deals with the development of his powers and getting revenge upon his killers and others who had wronged him in the past.
Although the movie gets off to a slow start, seemingly a very typical yakuza film, it really gets rolling once Keisuke dies and is reborn. There's a good deal of bloodshed and a good amount of laughs to be had throughout. In addition there are some impressive performances, my standouts being the lead Ujiki; who is pretty darn believable in his role of the "part man, part machine, all Yakuza" and Tomorowo Taguchi who does a bang up, over-the-top job as the mad scientist who is responsible for bringing Keisuke back from the dead. While the special effects are sometimes a bit cheesy the persons responsible do a commendable job which often betrays the movies modest straight to video budget. Overall it's a good ride, much more evenly paced than the "Dead or Alive" series, and is well suited for repeated viewings.
Considering the movies relatively low budget and it's V-Cinema 9direct to video) origins, Artsmagic did a darn good job on the transfer to DVD. Colors are rich and vibrant and there is no artifacting to be found, even in the frequent dark scenes with lots of black areas. The white subtitles are surrounded with a thin black line so they are always very visible and the translations seem to be very good, no "Engrish" to be found here folks. While the video quality isn't perfect I think that it's as good as one could possibly expect.
The audio, presented in Dolby Digital stereo, is recorded at an acceptable volume and doesn't seem to contain any unnecessary background noise or hissing. A 5.1 mix would have been nice for some of the action sequences but the movie works just fine in stereo.
C-ommentary by Tom Mes, author of "Agitator", the definitive book on the works of Takashi Miike.
-Interview with Takashi Miike.
-Interview with editor Yasushi Shimamura
-Interview with main lead Tsuyoshi Ujiki
The running commentary by Tom Mes is informative but too often I found him to be merely describing what is onscreen, while a blind person may find this helpful I have my own eyes and don't need a running description. He offers up a lot of information on Yakuza cinema and the cast of the film as well which is always appreciated. The interviews with Miike and other persons involved in the film are more insightful but not as necessary as the commentary on DVDs such as "Ichi the Killer" due to the rather straightforward nature of "Full Metal Yakuza". They do offer a lot of information on the production of the films, the personalities of the interviewees, and the relationships between the people and Miike. While the interviews are informative and often entertaining, they will probably only be appreciated by the more hardcore fans of Miike and modern Japanese cinema.
I highly recommend "Full Metal Yakuza" to fans of the films of Takashi Miike and anyone else with even a passing interest in modern Japanese cinema. This would also make a good initiation into the works of Miike due to it's straightforward nature, not much is left up to the imagination and, unile the DOA series or "Ichi" there isn't a lot of ambiguity.
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