Former convict David Brandt’s job at the cardboard box factory is a career with real prospects – because after foiling an attempt on a Yakuza, gang’s lives, he becomes an honorary member! Now helping out with the gang’s day to day criminal activities, such as arms dealing and… well, arms dealing!), gang heavyweight Mr Shuji is indebted to him after he saved his life and treats him like a brother, even giving him a posh flat with all the trimmings, the horniest chick ever to come out of Japan, and even allows him to call him Shu – apparently, from anyone else this would have been an insult punishable by death! But there’s another side to David Brandt because, guess what folks, he’s actually Nick Davis, special FBI agent, at your service America!!! Well I fucking NEVER!!!
But you expected that though, didn’t you, just like you’ll see everything else coming in this predictable but fairly fun action thriller from Frank A. Cappello. Playing like an extended, gorier version of your average TV cop show – lots of shooting, a few stunts here and there, love interest, conscience-wrestling, inner-conflicts and a ridiculously unlikely storyline - American Yakuza is a valiant, but ultimately unnecessary attempt to bring the high-adrenalin excitement of Asian cinema to a conservative western mass-market audience, and of course falls somewhat short of the mark. Lead man Viggo Mortensen’s soft-voice and good looks might make him an ideal hormone-sizzler for the nine-o-clock chick flick but does him little good at the end of a gun and, in any case, his mediocre characterless role gives him nothing much to work with. Any attempt by Cappello to add a little creative flair is very misguided and amateurish – that strange, dreamlike editing used to denote a passage of time, for example, really dampens-down the effect of what could be great scenes of Yakuza vengeance against the other side. And speaking of missed opportunities, Cappello – unlike his Japanese counterparts – is loathe to “go all the way,” in particular a scene where a gang traitor is ready to be run through a woodchipping machine, but these pussy-footing lightweight so-called gangsters let him off the hook at the last minute and just shoot him through the head instead! What a disappointment!
Apparently this film was made with the full co-operation of the Yakuza, and admittedly it is quite fun - good enough to save the director from being buried beneath a motorway – but it’s just not good enough. Cliched action films like this need to be sensational enough to keep the viewers’ interest and, sadly, this is much too restrained. And as for those claims that Cappello is in the same league as John Woo? Well, put it this way, I wouldn’t climb over Hard Boiled to get to this!