Bounty Films // 2011 // 106 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard // May 16th, 2012
Having learned of his father's betrayal at the hands of a former friend, Shozo Iwaki (Tak Sakaguchi, Versus) declares war on Yakuza boss Kurawaki (Shingo Tsurumi). Despite waging an audacious campaign to bring Kurawaki down, Shozo falls short in his mission and is left a bloody mess. Taken in by government forces looking to dismantle Kurawaki's empire, Shozo undergoes radical surgery to turn him into the ultimate killing machine. Now sporting a mini-gun where his right arm used to be, and a rocket launcher in place of a left leg, Shozo is unleashed to wreak his bloody revenge.
Yakuza Weapon could very well have been the brainchild of two teenage boys, as it takes a gimmicky concept and fails miserably to do anything remotely interesting with it. Seemingly taking their cue from Evil Dead II and Planet Terror -- though one should not dismiss the works of Shin'ya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man) on the duo's work -- Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi (who share writer-director credits) struggle to introduce anything of note in their film beyond cybernetic penile implants and heavy duty weaponry in the place of a severed limb.
Reading the synopsis for Yakuza Weapon, you'd be forgiven for expecting an action-packed, though somewhat lightweight thrill ride. Yet, even such relatively low expectations are not met due to a torrid opening hour, which runs out of steam far too quickly. Though action frequently permeates the lengthy scenes of banal dialogue -- most of which is delivered with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer -- they lack finesse and would have benefited greatly from a more accomplished fight choreographer.
Tak Sakaguchi has the look and the chops to play the antihero well, but here is let down by a poorly conceived role that is over reliant on shouting and weak comedy to make any impact. The rest of the cast fares even less well, with roles that fall into one of three categories (comedy sidekick, love interest, or villain), and fail to deviate even slightly from the most basic elements of each.
Visually, the film is reasonably accomplished. It's a sad fact that a large chunk of the J-Splatter genre is totally lacking in artistic merit, but from its opening shot, Yakuza Weapon stands out due to a more cinematic look than many of its contemporaries. Sakaguchi and Yamaguchi employ CGI to complement many of their action scenes -- most notably for blood -- and do so with some success. Arguably, the standout moment comes when -- having awoken from surgery -- Shozo finds himself confronted by an all-female hit squad. Unable to control his powers, Shozo reacts on instinct alone, resulting in a relentless bloodbath that contained a real dynamism lacking from the rest of the film.
Although I may have reservations about the quality of the film, it's hard to fault Bounty Films' Yakuza Weapon (Blu-ray) (Region B) release. The 1.78:1 1080p transfer is excellent -- especially when taking into account the film's low budget. The picture, which is clean and sharp throughout, has a decent amount of depth to it, with deep black levels. Colors are strong, and detail levels good. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track cranks the volume up and literally explodes from the speakers. Action scenes benefit most from this, while dialogue remains clear even amongst busier scenes.
The selection of extras is certainly varied, both in terms of content and quality.
* "The Making of Yakuza Weapon" -- Clocking in at 46 minutes, this offers an entertaining look at the film's inception and production, and is most notable for the interactions of its two directors.
* "Takuzo's Weapon" -- This short film (which comes in at 15 minutes) is for diehard fans of Yakuza Weapon only and suffers from many of the same problems that plague the main feature.
* "Toki's Wedding: Part One" -- Leading man Tak Sakaguchi returns home for his sister's wedding in this home movie. Part Two is available on Bounty Films' release of Deadball.
* "The Tower of Kurawaki" -- The thirty-six assassins who reside in Yakuza boss Kurawaki's tower fortress are given their chance to shine. In truth, this plays out like a cosplay party gone terribly wrong.
* "Opening Day Stage Greeting" -- Cast and crew introduce themselves to an attentive audience prior to a showing of the movie.
* "Dream Jumbo Talkshow" -- Manga artist Go Nagai joins Yudai Yamaguchi and Tak Sakahguchi for a discussion on Yakuza Weapon, and its adaptation from the original manga.
Slow, cumbersome, and ultimately nowhere near as crazy as it thinks it is, Yakuza Weapon is best avoided for all but the most hardcore fans of the genre.
Review content copyright © 2012 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Bounty Films
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (Japanese)
Running Time: 106 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Short Film