Yakuza Weapon (2011)
By: Stuart Giesel on August 7, 2013 | Comments
Monster Pictures | Region B | 1.78:1, 1080p | Japanese DTS-HD MA 5.1 | 105 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Directors: Tak Sakaguchi, Yudai Yamaguchi
Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Shingo Tsurumi, Mei Kurokawa, Takashi Nishina
Screenplay: Tak Sakaguchi, Yudai Yamaguchi
Country: Japan
External Links
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Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa, Joel and Ethan Coen, Darren Aronofsky, Quentin Tarantino, Werner Herzog. There are some directors for whom I will watch anything they make, because they have earned my trust. They may not always deliver, but even their worst films still have merit.

On the flip-side, I didn't have a "director shit-list" until I finished watching Yakuza Weapon. After all, I try to give every director a fair chance. Hell, even Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson comes up with the goods every so often. But I have to say that I'm done with anything Yakuza Weapon co-directors Tak Sakaguchi and/or Yudai Yamaguchi are involved in. If I see their name involved in a project, I'll be sure to gouge my eyes out rather than invest my time in watching something they've spewed out of their face-holes. When a movie makes you vow never to watch anything else created by its filmmakers, and makes you reassess anything you might have ever seen from them in the past, you know you have a stinky turd melting in your hands.

Apparently Yakuza Weapon is based on a manga, which may explain its scattershot and manic approach - but it certainly doesn't absolve the film of blame. The "story" centres around a mercenary named Shozo Iwaki (co-director Tak Sakaguchi) who can avoid injury - even death by bullets and landmines - by force of will alone, and who returns from a stint in South America to avenge the death of his father, a Yakuza boss. His father's nemesis is Kurawaki (Shingo Tsurumi) who has the hots for, and subsequently kidnaps, Shozo's sister Nayoko (Mei Kurokawa). Somehow, Shozo gets critically injured, and is repaired by the government. No, he doesn't become Robocop - he ends up having a minigun attached to his arm (actually, he can make it appear and disappear at will) and is able to shoot rockets from his knee. Yup. The rest of the film involves his attempts to avenge his father's death and save his sister.

Where Yakuza Weapon succeeds is in giving us ridiculous sights: holes through a man's face from cleats, the dumbest Matrix "bullet-cam" move yet seen outside of an amateur YouTube video, an act of violence so forceful it erupts through a phone line to the call receiver on the other side, a tender reunion spoiled when Shozo replaces himself - mid-hug, mind you - with a blow up doll. And that's in the first 15 minutes! Unfortunately, the humour is so strained as to strangle any potential laughs. Ok, that's a little unfair - I did laugh at an early gag involving a yakuza boss's combover. But, sweet Jesus, this is dumb, dumb shit. Everything is heightened, including the acting, meaning that ultimately nothing is heightened by comparison. You end up simply watching to see what nonsense comes up next. And because of this, the "performances" almost always consist of shouting and screaming dialogue, which becomes tortuous.

And unfortunately, ridiculousness does not make a film fun to watch. Bereft of such things as interesting characters or an involving plot or even copious amounts of gore, Yakuza Weapon is a chore to sit through unless you're on some sort of medication.

A review of Yakuza Weapon simply needs to ask prospective watchers two things. One: did you think Machine Girl wasn't silly enough, that it required more insipid Three Stooges-style comedy, goofy sound effects and less interesting characters? Two: does the idea of a nude woman being used as a gun sound interesting, especially when clouded with horrendously cheap CGI? (It should be noted here, however, that despite what the packaging hints at, the bullets don't come from the most obvious place you might think and hope). If the answer to these two questions is yes, and you have suffered some sort of brain injury, then Yakuza Weapon is for you. Everyone else need not apply.

It's like Jack Nicholson's performance in The Shining. Because he starts off on a "Jack Nicholson Scale Of Nuttiness" factor of 8, it's no shock when he eventually reaches 10. Same here. Because Yakuza Weapon starts off completely unhinged, it has nowhere to go, so things can only get repetitive. It doesn't earn its stripes, so to speak. And the bargain-basement CGI straight out of Adobe After Effects don't help matters. Some of the prosthetic gore and practical effects are decent, but unfortunately the crap CGI overwhelms what good the practical stuff is capable of. Another problem comes later on, when the film wants to shift gears and give us some "drama". Sorry, Mr Sakaguchi and Mr Yamaguchi, no - no! Bad directors! You've already sold us this ridiculous, infantile package from the outset; you don't get to dramatically change the tone now, and you're not Takashi Miike and this is not Audition where you actually have the talent to pull it off. Some more dumb shit follows, but then we get what I assume is the filmmakers' attempt at a sombre, contemplative ending. At least Helldriver, as much as I disliked it, took its core concept and tone and consistently ran with it.

There are moments that suggest this might have been a much better film, specifically in the long (four or five minutes plus, by recollection) one-take shot which starts with some shitty CGI but evolves into a beautifully-choreographed fight scene in a locker room (and then heads upstairs) that would make Tony Jaa proud. The shot is marred by some more cheap CGI towards the end, but it suggests a talent within the filmmakers, the stuntmen, cinematographer and lead Sakaguchi that, until this point in the film, had been mostly hidden. A shame there wasn't more of this sort of stuff.

Oh, and it might just be me, but I'm absolutely sick of movies which use CGI as a replacement for real explosions and real squib effects. Sure, it's undoubtedly cheaper and easier to stage, but the end result comes nowhere close to the visceral impact of action staged in-camera. Yakuza Weapon is full of CGI gunfights that don't leave bullet holes, rubble or residue. Glass flies everywhere but there's nary a physical piece of shredded glass left on the floor in the aftermath. John Woo would be rolling over in his grave, if he was dead that is.

The end credits show stills from the original manga, confirming that some things are better left on the page. Yakuza Weapon had obvious limitations, the budget presumably being the biggest one. That's fine - not every movie can have, nor should have, a massive budget. But it's what you do with the money that speaks volumes. It forces filmmakers to be creative. Unfortunately, as with Helldriver, scope and intent overpower what can actually be delivered, and the filmmakers expect dumb comedy and shit CGI to sell the final product. You want to make Yakuza Weapon? Scale it back and work on a better-crafted package, one that doesn't look like you're pissing in the audience's face whilst stealing money from their wallets.

At one point, boss Kurawaki says, "That retarded animal could use some discipline." Shame the filmmakers didn't take those words to heart.
The Disc
Because Yakuza Weapon is a cheap piece of shit that's been post-processed to hell and back, it's difficult to judge its visual and aural quality. Was it the intention of the directors to make a film that looks like cheap rubbish? Well, mission accomplished. Shots are overexposed, colours bleed, and I'm sure I saw a fair bit of interlacing in the earlier scenes. Not great. Sound is considerably better, and extremely loud, so all those chaotic sound effects and screeching in Japanese will not only test your sound system but your mental stamina as well. The dreadful, monotonous score tries its best to provide some propulsion to the action, but can only sound generic at the best of times. If your idea of a great soundtrack is simply noise noise noise then you'll love this one.

Still, credit to Monster for providing all three fans of Yakuza Weapon with a good assortment of extras, as follows:

Deleted and Extended Scenes - the last thing you'd want is more of Yakuza Weapon, yet here we are. Unbelievably, these are duller than what ended up in the final product.

The Making of Yakuza Weapon - lots of behind-the-scenes action. The cast and crew come across as likeable, and I'm sure being on set was more fun than sitting through the final product. Sushi Typhoon represents contemporary Japanese directors? God help the country if that's true, but I assume it's not - after all, Sion Sono, Takashi Miike and Takeshi Kitano probably don't come into that particular equation. It's a pretty good making of, all-in-all, and a pretty long one - for real fans of Yakuza Weapon and/or behind the scenes features only. How the crew can mention things like gravitas when it comes to Yakuza Weapon is pretty baffling.

Takuzo's Weapon: Short Film - a short film (clocking in at a punishing 15 minutes and feeling as long as a feature-length film) starring the most annoying character from the feature film, ripping off Sam Raimi and failing to be amusing in the slightest. Not recommended.

Toki's Wedding Part One - Tak Sakaguchi's sister Toki is getting married, and for some reason we're supposed to give a shit about this completely pointless, indulgent addition to the disc. Part Two is apparently on the Dead Ball disc, as if that's somehow meant to inspire us to purchase that film.

The Tower of Kurawaki - we see the tower of 36 assassins from the film (a brief segment near the start) in all their "glory". Some of the assassins are amusing, and more thought and imagination went into this - basically, a throwaway gag from the film - than much of Yakuza Weapon. No. 11 Lewd Foreigner is the best.

Opening Day Stage Greeting - opening day intros by the filmmakers to a poor, unsuspecting crowd unaware of the horrors that await them.

Dream Jumbo Talkshow: following the opening day showing, there is a discussion with manga artist Go Nagai and directors Yudai Yamaguchi and Tak Sakaguchi. The crowd sounds decidedly less enthusiastic than the previous featurette when they were asked if they liked the film. Go Nagai states that he's glad the film captures the incoherent mood of the manga - if the film is anything to go by, then the original manga must be tonally skewed, horribly written and look like absolute shit (for the record, having not read it, I assume the manga is much better than the feature film). There are some interesting points raised in the discussion, including the addition of the nuclear power element (prescient considering the recent disaster in Japan) and how overseas opinions differed from the Japanese response.

There's also a trailer - which makes the film look worse than it actually is, if such a thing is possible - and the option to play the film with the isolated musical score, which would at least cut out the incessant yelling that passes for acting. Now, whilst you might want the music-only option in a film where John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith or Basil Poledouris has been the composer, it's a weird feature for a film whose score is so generic and forgettable.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Yakuza Weapon fully embraces its cheap, silly origins, but the problem is that none of the manic energy on the screen translates to audience enjoyment. It's self-aware, but that only makes it worse - at least some of the "so bad they're good" films are inherently watchable. Monster have come up with a great disc - shame it's wasted on such a turd of a movie.
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