Hong Kong Cinema

Full Metal Yakuza

  • Made: 1997
  • Format: DVD
  • Region: Region 2 PAL
  • Release Date: May 2004
  • Company: Artsmagic
  • Length: 103 mins
  • Picture: 16:9 Anamorphic
  • Language: Japanese with English Subtitles
  • Extras: Dolby Digital, Interviews, Commentary, Filmographies, Biographies, Previews
  • Classification: 18
  • Full Metal Yakuza - US Trailer - UK Trailer


Takeshi Miike


Takeshi Caesar; Yasushi Kitamura; Yuichi Minato; Ren Osugi; Tomorowo Taguchi; Koji Tsukamoto; Shoko Nakahara

Takeshi Miike has done many bizarre, disturbing and terrifying films during his hugely prolific career, and Full Metal Yakuza (1997) was one of his many straight-to-video films that he made during the nineties. He is one of the shining lights of his generation, responsible for some of the edgiest and rawest moments in world cinema. Full Metal Yakuza contains scenes of graphic and sexual violence but still has a low shock factor due to the comic-book nature of the movie. However, Miike holds the peculiar honour of being one of the few directors to have been cut by the BBFC in recent years with his ultra-graphic Ichi the Killer. Other films that have pushed the boundaries of good taste include the shocking Audition and much of the Dead or Alive series. The only thing that can match Miike's taste for the extreme is his productivity. Since 1991, Miike has been responsible for well over 50 films.


Although it is not directly linked, this is a low budget, high frills, adaptation of Paul Verhoeven's Robocop. There is an additional twist as the cyborg is a failed Yakuza down on his luck rather than a cop. Hagane (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) is a useless and cowardly Yakuza who admires the imprisoned Tosa-san. After being beaten up, and frowned upon by people from all walks of life, surely his life cannot plummet any further. He has libido problems and regular punks give him, a yakuza, no respect and prefer to use him as a punch bag. Soon after Tosa's release from prison both him and Hagane are gunned down in a set-up. The valiant Tosa tries to provide a human shield for Hagane but it is to no avail as they are cut down in a blaze of bullets. A mad professor ( Tomorowo Taguchi ) manages to salvage both the bodies and combine Hagane's brain with Tosa's heart, tattooed back and private parts! The Full Metal Yakuza must go on a bloody journey through the Yakuza underworld to avenge the death of his beloved Tosa-san.



The film manages to combine gore and gadgets to create one of the most preposterous characters in the world of cinema. In a desperate attempt to capture the costume and special effects, I would compare them to Red Dwarf ( UK readers will know what I mean). Think budget, then think budget special effects on a budget, and we are close to the production values for this film! However, a low budget movie does not mean a bad movie. There are many redeeming factors, but unfortunately there are also moments when you really start to question whether this film is deliberately attempting to be naff? One training scene has the 'Full Metal' Hagane being taught to fight like a folk dancer!

It was clearly never the intention of Miike to create an authentic martial arts movie, and much of the action is poorly choreographed with a greater emphasis on blood and guts. Apart from the sword fighting in the film's climax, the special effects also lack any genuine attempt at authenticity and proudly revel in their budget feel. CGI is largely overlooked in favour of rewind and fast-forward shots, flickering screens and lots of super-crimson blood. The graphic displays of male genitalia have been digitally blurred, which only adds to the comedy!


Artsmagic already have releases from the Zatoichi and Lady Snowblood series and it seems they have much more in the pipeline. Up to this point, the vast majority of Japanese cinema has been released by Tartan, who has failed to set the DVD world on fire with pricey discs and few extras. The Artsmagic disc is a mediocre anamorphic print with English subtitles. This print has not been given the five star treatment afforded by Hong Kong Legends and Celestial. What saves the disc is that it contains several fascinating interviews, plus a commentary from Miike expert, Tom Mes and several bonus features. It is certainly refreshing to see a budget disc that has actually researched the film and managed to acquire such additional material. The production values on the interviews are particularly low, but that does not diminish the compelling sight of Miike with his trademark shades.


Full Metal Yakuza film will never pull on your emotional strings; it lacks the credibility or desire to command any sentiment. Unlike many of Miike's more recent works, this will not shock or disturb you greatly, but it will try and overwhelm you with a host of cheap frills. This film will never be accused of taking itself too seriously, it quite simply tries to entertain within a modest budget. Full Metal Yakuza is hard to love and hard to hate, it sits somewhere in the middle, but I have no idea where!