Document type
20 March 2001
Format viewed

Full Metal Yakuza

picture: Full Metal Yakuza (1997)picture: Full Metal Yakuza (1997)

Original title
Full Metal Gokudo
Takashi MIIKE
  • Tsuyoshi UJIKI
  • Tomorowo TAGUCHI
  • Shoko NAKAHARA
  • Ren OSUGI
Running time
102 mins.
Tom Mes

Packed to the brim with delightful, funny, cruel, explicit and inventive details, Full Metal Yakuza is a grandiose retelling of Paul Verhoeven's Robocop, courtesy of one of the most exciting directors to come out of Japan in the last fifteen years.

Instead of simply opting for straight imitation (which was most likely the intention of its producers), Full Metal Yakuza takes the route of subtle and insightful parody. Like all good parodies it also pays homage to its source. Filtered through Japanese sensibilities, the premise of Verhoeven's original is applied to the yakuza genre and given a strong psycho-sexual undercurrent. In addition, chanbara swordplay (in expertly directed action sequences) replaces gunfire and situational comedy replaces Robocop's more dark and serious overtones.

Because of the comedy, it is certainly silly in places. However, this film is simply too good to be dismissed as silly. More likely, the silliness is intentional. On the one hand it emphasises the artificiality of the film's premise. Mainly, though, it results from an attempt to place that artificial premise in a realistic environment. What Miike does is to place an element from science fiction in a genre more commonly grounded in reality as we know it. Unlike Verhoeven's film, Full Metal Yakuza is not set in the future, but in the contemporary Japan of the crime film. The result is a collision between two genres - and between artifice and realism - that makes for delightful cinema.

Full Metal Yakuza is part of Miike's extensive oeuvre of direct-to-video films. To this day, as international critical acclaim for his work increases, the director continues to make films for both cinema and the more exploitational video market. In Japan however, this market is on a notably higher level of quality than the DTV arena in the US or Europe. It is a market that allows gifted young filmmakers a good amount of freedom to experiment, as long as the final result comes in on budget and contains the recquisite elements that make it marketable to an audience. Admittedly, there is a lot of crap being made in Japan too, but for every stinker there is a film like Full Metal Yakuza and a director like Takashi Miike. And both come highly recommended.


Artsmagic (USA)

picture: DVD cover of 'Full Metal Yakuza'

Region 1. English subtitles.

Artsmagic (UK)

picture: DVD cover of 'Full Metal Yakuza'

Region 2. English subtitles.

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