Kensuke Hagane works as a janitor for Tousa, the head of a powerful Yakuza family; Kensuke looks up to Tousa, and wants to join the organization some day. While Tousa is serving seven years in prison, Kensuke is given his chance, but he lacks the courage to do much more than the most menial tasks. Things change, however, when Kensuke is driving Tousa home after his stay in prison is over; the pair are ambushed by enemy gangsters, leading to a vicious gun battle in which Kensuke is mutilated and Tousa is killed. They're rescued by Hiraga Genpaku, a crazed medical genius who rebuilds Kensuke using parts of Tousa's body as well as the latest in bionic technology. Now possessing super-human powers as well as Tousa's impressive physical strength, Kensuke is transformed into a super-Yakuza who sets out to take down the men who killed Tousa and nearly cost him his life.
Directed by: Takashi Miike
. Starring: Tsuyoshi Ujiki
, Tomorô Taguchi
, Takeshi Caesar
, Kazuki Kitamura
, Yûichi Minato
, Shôko Nakahara
, Momoko Nishida
, Ren Osugi
, Manzô Shinra
, Kôji Tsukamoto
. Music by: Kôji Endô
, Sound Kids
Japanese film maker talent and inventive genius Takashi Miike (born 1960) has done incredible amount of films in his not-even-so-long career so far. He has done made-for-video cheapies and big screen films that vary from unconventional and wonderful Yakuza tales to insane comic book adaptations to mind blowing satires, and the greater the themes in these films are, the more serious he is and uses his ideas and crazy creativity with restraint inside the otherwise serious world he's created: a bazooka torn from a guy's back isn't any funny moment in Dead or Alive (1999) but has its important meaning for the theme telling so much about the character(s) and their values in the violent world Miike depicts.
His Full Metal Yakuza aka Full Metal Gokudo (1997) belongs to the cheap and fastly made video films and it is easy to tell it is a very exploitation oriented market that wants simple, violent and graphic films without much more merits in them. Full Metal Yakuza tells the Robocop-like (1987, Paul Verhoeven) story of a killed Yakuza who gets back to life as he is turned into a robothuman by one crazy scientist. He wants to avenge the death of his friend as well as try to save his former love from the sadistic hands of the rival Yakuza. Ultra violence and gore ensues and all the potential that was used to wonderful perfection in Fudoh (1996), for example, is not there in this film.
There are some nice Japanese cinema elements like the silence that tells more than words. The scene in the beach after a refusal to kill one Yakuza boss is especially memorable and also close to the work of Takeshi Kitano. Still the revenge theme is not handled here as it was in Dead or Alive or Fudoh. In Full Metal Yakuza, violence and acts of revenge don't have any other meaning than to satisfy the gore audience and that is pretty sad for those who'd like to see Miike making more serious cinema all the time. In real world, violence and revenge is never as harmless and fun as in this film and Miike for sure would have talents to make real films from the subject matter, as he's done. Also the ending, showing how desperate the characters are for personal revenge and payback would be as wonderful as in those other films, but now it all is just mostly comical trash as Miike definitely wasn't doing this for anything else than money and to satisfy his huge need to work. It is hard to make any interpretations on single images and scenes while everything before and after them fights against any serious analyzes.
Also the way how females are treated and depicted is pretty unpleasant. I don't think there's even one normal, calm and balanced female character here, all are just screaming and sudden bitches that just need to be killed off by the more or less restrained men. The ending involves a very nasty abusion scene of a female character and that is definitely too strong in a trashy film like this. But fortunately it ends in a way that at least that female had someone who cared for her and loved her so at least females are not completely worthless in the film. Miike has depicted females in various ways and at least films like Fudoh and Rainy Dog show them equally significant, if not always strong, with the men.
The film has also very few of the wonderful cinematic elements and ideas of Miike like the kinetic storytelling and speed of City of Lost Souls aka The Hazard City (2000), the brilliant and surreal imagery of one of his masterpieces Dead or Alive, the claustrophobic, creepy and disturbing brilliance of Audition (1999) or the manic elements in the soundtrack, editing and camerawork of Koroshiya Ichi aka Ichi the Killer (2001). Of course the budget in Full Metal Yakuza was much smaller than in those mentioned films, but still the film doesn't offer any significant achievements of its director, other than the typical ultra violence and silliness. At least the always so great criticism towards the Japanese censors who like to censor all the pubic hair off the films is there and again very delightfully so. Another examples of these opinions can be found in his films like Visitor Q (2001) and Rainy Dog (1997). I'm sure the Japanese producers and censors have a lot of fun when they see what has Takashi done now!
The film is high on its gore level and so reminds pretty much of Ichi the Killer, a film that is filled with cartoonish violence and blood plus sadism towards both females and males. Full Metal Yakuza has plenty of swordfights (!) and other bloody carnage that gives the makers an opportunity to throw in plenty of blood geysirs and splatter that satisfies some viewers but is not enough when the film is by talented director like Miike. Neither this or Ichi the Killer are to be taken seriously (hardly anyone takes, at least Full Metal Yakuza), and especially Ichi, despite its flaws and negative sides, tells something about the audience, that laughs looking like a bunch of monkeys and as sorry characters as those inside the film, when someone's being tortured and brutally murdered. Ichi the Killer has also some interesting elements in the form of Ichi himself, who is a traumatized boy with violent environment and society around him. This important theme is handled more carefully in Rainy Dog and also in Fudoh.
Full Metal Yakuza is filled with desperate and weak human beings that have only few civilized characteristics that make it able to call them men, not only beasts, which they very often are inside in Miike's cinema. Full Metal Yakuza is far from his greatest achievements and ambitions and thus is not at all among his most noteworthy films, but that is understandable considered the film's speedy low budget exploitation money maker status. 410 but only as a lover of Japanese cinema. Anyone with not interest in this great cinema and its elements won't likely to be able to sit through the manic and insane (and also the most uninspired) examples of it, like Full Metal Yakuza.
Review by Bogey Man from the Internet Movie Database.