Shot on digital video and produced on a tiny budget, Full Metal Yakuza (aka Full Metal Gokudô) is hardly one of Takashi Miike’s most important films, but it’s an entertaining-enough slice of sci-fi trash.
Kensuke (Tsuyoshi Ujiki) works as a janitor for a powerful Yakuza family, dreaming that one day he’ll make it as fully fledged gangster like Tousa, his boss. Tousa is sent to prison for seven years, but Kensuke continues to work his way up the Yakuza ranks, proving determined but not very good at enforcing his new boss’s will. Tousa is assassinated on his day of release by rival gangsters, and Kensuke is killed in the crossfire. Luckily, crazy scientist Hiraga gets hold of the bodies and creates a super-powered cyborg hybrid, combining Kensuke’s head with Tuosa’s heart and his, er, penis. Pretty soon Kensuke/Tousa is looking for revenge.
The biggest influence here is of course (Robocop – emotionally fragile man-machine seeking vengeance from those who turned him cyborg. But unlike the hero of Full Metal Yakuza, Robocop wasn’t endowed with a huge cock, nor was he told to hold a hand to his head and sing a Russian ballad whenever he was feeling over-emotional. This is one of Miike’s most overtly comic films – the pre-cyborg Kensuke is a bumbling oaf, while Hiraga is a super-camp self-proclaimed genius who seems to have only created his robot for a bit of company. Best of all is the technique that he teaches Kensuke to protect his head in combat, a hilarious mincing girly-skip that causes much confusion amongst his foes.
It drags a little in the middle section, and having camped everything up for 45 minutes, Miike makes the mistake of trying to inject a bit of emotional depth by introducing Tousa’s hooker mistress who still pines for her former lover. It doesn’t really work, but thankfully things get back on track when she is kidnapped by Kensuke’s foes and the cyborg must face them for a final bloody showdown.
Full Metal Yakuza pre-empts Miike’s later Ichi the Killer by having a reluctant, awkward superhero in a silly costume, driven by violent urges he can’t control. And like Ichi it mixes over-the-top splatter with a distasteful mistreatment of women – indeed, there’s a spot of necro-rape towards the end that rivals Ichi’s nipple-slicing for sheer jaw-dropping nastiness. But that’s Miike for ya.
Japan’s most controversial director, notorious for his dauntingly prolific output and willingness to push the boundaries of taste. Miike started working as an assistant director in the late 80s, before moving into making straight-to-video thrillers in 1991. He made his feature debut in 1995 with the violent cop thriller Shinjuku Triad Society, and since then has averaged around seven films year.