Full Metal Yakuza
(a.k.a. Full Metal Gokudo) (1997)
Directed by Takashi Miike

Artistic Value: * * *
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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After Hagane, an ineffectual Yakuza, is murdered along with his personal hero, another gangster, the men's killers sell their corpses to a mad scientist. This individual then rebuilds Hagane's body, implanting in it his idol's heart and nervous system and covering it with a metal casing. Having so been reborn, Hagane sets out to avenge his own murder, in spite of his concern that he has become a monster.

Takashi Miike's Full Metal Yakuza is by no means the director's best film. In fact, it is often pretty bad, but, be that as it may, it is usually fun to watch.

Throughout its duration, the movie is incessantly weird, gratuitously violent, and deliciously campy. At different times, the director presents the moviegoer with depictions of his inept protagonist's unsuccessful efforts to extort money from an old man, which only leads to his being beaten up by that man's wife, of the hero, having been brought back to life as an unstoppable cyborg, slaughtering armies of Yakuza, of him kicking the severed head of one of his enemies like a football, of a chained woman, who is being raped while dressed in bondage gear, committing suicide by biting off her tongue, and of much more.

While nearly all of these incidents are genuinely nasty and repulsive, many are also surprisingly funny. The director, by suffusing his presentations of a number of these sequences with a sense of humor thereby makes them even more uncomfortable and even more entrancing than they would have been had he not done so. Miike has, undoubtedly, made a B-movie, a low budget exploitation film, but he has made a surprisingly inventive and affecting one. The viewer is, as a result, sure to be thrilled and disgusted over and over again.

Despite its grisly, goofy appeal, Full Metal Yakuza is deeply flawed. Its production values are often distractingly low. The acting is not invariably impressive. Some parts of the film are slow moving, and sometimes its campiness gives way to a real lack of quality.

Although not nearly as accomplished as are many of Miike's other efforts, Full Metal Yakuza is, for the most part, a fascinating, exhilarating movie.

Review by Keith Allen

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