Yakuza Weapon (Gokudô heiki) (Blu-ray) (2011)

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Released 19-Jul-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Deleted Scenes-x 5
Featurette-Making Of
Short Film-Takuzo’s Weapon
Featurette-Toki’s Wedding Part One
Featurette-The Tower of Kurawaki
Interviews-Cast & Crew-Opening Day Stage Greeting
More…-Talkshow: Manga artist Go Nagai and directors
Theatrical Trailer
Isolated Musical Score
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 105:06
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tak Sakaguchi
Yudai Yamaguchi
Studio
Distributor
Gryphon Entertainment Starring Dennis Gunn
Cay Izumi
Shinji Kasahara
Mei Kurokawa
Akaji Maro
Jun Murakami
Yui Murata
Yoshihiro Nishimura
Takashi Nishina
Hiroshi Ohmori
Jyonmyon Pe
Akihiko Sai
Tak Sakaguchi
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Nobuhiko Morino


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Japanese DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, constantly
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Shozo (Tak Sakaguchi) is fighting as a mercenary in the jungles of Central America when he learns that his yakuza father Gonzo (Akaji Maro) has been betrayed and killed by his associate Kurawaki (Shingo Tsurumi). It seems that with the backing of an international crime syndicate Kurawaki is intent on unifying the yakuza families under his control and selling a super drug that may destabilise Japan. Shozo returns to Japan with his henchmen Takuzo and Santaro (Takashi Nishina, Akihiko Sai) and renews his acquaintance with yakuza woman Nayoko (Mei Kurokawa) with whom he had been formally betrothed. He had abandoned Nayoko when he went off as a mercenary, and she is not impressed.

     Shozo proceeds to dismantle Kurawaki’s empire, not to mention his headquarters building. But when he catches up with Kurawaki the international cartel intervenes: in a hail of mini-gun bullets and rockets Shozo’s right arm and left leg are blown off, and Kurawaki escapes. Shozo is captured by a secret Japanese government agency which performs surgery on him, replacing his lost arm with a mini-gun and his leg with a rocket launcher. He is then ready to be the ultimate yakuza weapon, and is turned loose by the government to eliminate Kurawaki and his international backers.

     In another story thread we meet Tetsuo (Jun Murakami), a childhood competitor and blood brother of Shozo. He had been in gaol for 5 years, has escaped but failed to save his sister from being killed. Now, wracked by drugs and remorse, he drags her body in a coffin through the streets where he is recruited by Kurawaki. As the bloodshed and body count reaches its climax, Kurawaki unleashes Tetsuo upon Shozo but also turns to the ultimate weapon, resurrecting the corpse of Shozo’s father to be the zombie Atomic Yakuza!

     Yakuza Weapon starts off with a jungle combat sequence that is like Rambo on supersteriods; Shozo is impervious to the flying bullets that are cutting down his colleagues, maintaining that “you only get hit if you are afraid of getting hit”, and standing in full view to light a cigarette before going into action armed only with a knife and his fists to take out every enemy in sight, and then a few! This is a frenetic opening that shows promise but unfortunately once the plot returns to Japan there are just too many things going on: there are unexplained bits, such as Kurawaki’s weird head equipment, assassins come from nowhere and the Tetsuo plot seems to belong to another film. I have not read the manga Gokudouheiki by Ken Ishikawa, published in 1996, upon which the film is based but I guess that the manga would be able to explain and to tie in these story lines better than a 100 minute film.

     In Yakuza Weapon there is also a lot of silliness that passes for humour, such as a giant atomic p**** or the banter between Shozo and Nayoko that is loud and unconvincing. Indeed, much of the dialogue is declaimed loudly, with a lot of over the top mugging. In typical Sushi Typhoon manner there is copious blood, severed heads and limbs, and lots of action with guns, swords, rockets, fists and legs but the staging is very much of the shaky cam variety, with quick cuts and the camera jumping all over the place so it is difficult to see what is happening. There is also some indifferent CGI, the explosion of the Kurawaki HQ and the disintegration of bodies in a splat of blood due to the mini-gun only a couple of examples. This is not to say that there are not some imaginative ideas on show, and one sequence gives a whole new meaning to “naked weapon”, but these bits of inspired lunacy are too infrequent.

     Tak Sakaguchi is a good looking and charismatic star who is great at self-promotion and acting cool; his Death Trance (2005) is a good example of his persona and Yakuza Weapon sets a similar tone; if cool is perpetually smoking a cigarette while sporting a hat and a big gun dispatching the opposition goons in sprays of blood, then Yakuza Weapon is the ultimate cool!

     I like these insane Japanese blood, gore and mayhem films but I found this a bit underwhelming. Yakuza Weapon starts out well but is let down by confused plotting, queasy cam action sequences and general silliness. Not that plotting or sense is a mainstay of Nikkatsu / Sushi Typhoon filmmaking, but the best of their films, such as Tokyo Gore Police (2008), have an originality and a heart with someone to care for amid all the blood and lunacy. Here Yakuza Weapon is mostly an excuse for Tak Sakaguchi to look cool and strut his stuff. He does it very well and if this is enough you will enjoy Yakuza Weapon.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Yakuza Weapon is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code. I suspect the original theatrical ratio was 1.85:1 as some scenes appear slightly cropped.

     The print is indifferent, partly due to the restricted budget but also to the method of filming. Most of the film is done with shaky cameras; this is especially evident in the action sequences where I guess the use can be justified, but it also occurs in most other scenes as well. In addition, whenever a light source is behind the actors the film is very glary and it is hard to see what is happening, especially with motion: see 14:29, 15:22 for interiors or 68:47 where it is a dull sky behind the actor. This means that the film lacks sharpness in medium to long shots, although close-ups with a still camera do evince sharp detail. For the same reason, brightness and contrast vary, although sometimes this is deliberate such as in the flashback scenes.

     As expected of a recent film marks are absent, although there is a fair amount of ghosting with movement, especially in front of trees, and aliasing on grills (19:27) and bars (20:18). Colours are natural, blacks solid, but shadow detail can be indistinct due to the moving camera.

     English subtitles are in a white font that are easy to read and do not contain spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of Japanese DTS-MA HD 5.1 or an isolated music score, also in DTS-MA HD 5.1.

     The main audio is loud with a driving soundtrack and lots of gunfire and explosions. Despite being an action film, the audio was quite front oriented. Dialogue was clear and was centred. Effects and gunfire seemed to come from the front speakers even in the midst of a gunfight, the surrounds being used mostly for music and ambient sound although a couple of times voices from characters off camera occurred in the rears. The sub-woofer added bass to the explosions and to the music.

     The score by Nobuhiko Morino was loud and called attention to itself. In some action scenes it was jaunty and seemed to be trying for that tone where violence is very comic book and played for humour, so as such it is appropriate for the film.

     I did not notice any lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Quite an extensive set of extras, most worthwhile, although some are of limited relevance to the film itself.

Deleted & Extended Scenes (6:30)

     Five different scenes without links or commentary. Three have a caption.

The Making of Yakuza Weapon (46:20)

     An interesting piece in the nature of a video diary with cast and crew comments while on set and behind the scenes footage. Starts on day one with the introductions, and includes costuming, filming in various locations and stunts. Yudai Yamaguchi and Tak Sekaguchi feature heavily, of course, cast Mei Kurokawa, Jun Murakami, Shingo Tsurumi and Akaji Maro plus the producers, action director. Better than many of its kind.

Takuzo’s Weapon – Short Film (15:34)

     A short film by Kotaro Takaoka with props and actors (Takashi Nishina, Akihiko Sai and Tak Sekaguchi) from Yakuza Weapon; a man wants to be remodelled with various weapons / attributes with mixed results.

Toki’s Wedding Part One (16:24)

     Tak Sekaguchi returns to the family home in Kanazawa to hang out with his family and his sister Toki before her wedding. He smokes non-stop and they talk about their memories of growing up. Toki’s Wedding Part Two is included in the Blu-ray of another Tak Sekaguchi film, Deadball which is not yet listed for release in Australia. The DVD release of that film in Region 4 does not include this extra.

The Tower of Kurawaki (5:11)

     Weird - not sure how to describe this. There are 26 assassins who reside in the tower of yakuza boss Kurawaki – this is individual vignettes of the 36 with various weapons and names like Danny Yen (like Donnie Yen) who awkwardly strut their stuff for a few seconds as music plays. Some of them are mentioned in the film as Shozo moves against Kurawaki’s HQ but none have any screen time.

Opening Day Stage Greeting (5:48)

     Cast and crew greet the audience on stage before a screening of the film. Not surprisingly, nothing deep and meaningful.

Dream Jumbo Talkshow (22:59)

     A discussion before an audience with manga artist Go Nagai and directors Yudai Yamaguchi and Tak Sekaguchi filmed after a screening of Yakuza Weapon. This is not much about the film, but more about the original creator of the manga Ken Ishikawa and Nagai talking about some of his manga. Sekaguchi has little to say. There are burnt in white English subtitles that are occasionally obscured by Japanese captions on screen. Probably of more interest to manga fans.

Theatrical Trailer (2:25)

Isolated Music Score

     A DTS-HD MA 5.1 isolated music track that can be selected from the audio menu or the extras menu.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US and Region B UK Blu-ray releases appear identical to our release. Somewhat surprisingly YesAsia.com does not list a Region A Japanese Blu-ray, but in any case the Japanese Region 2 DVD seems to have the same extras as the Blu-ray releases. Buy local.

Summary

     Yakuza Weapon starts out well, but is let down by confused plotting, queasy cam action sequences, and general silliness. Yakuza Weapon is mostly an excuse for Tak Sakaguchi to look cool and strut his stuff and if this is enough you will get enjoyment from Yakuza Weapon.

     The video shows the films limited budget and is not one to illustrate the advantages of Blu-ray, the audio is good. There is a diverse range of mostly worthwhile extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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