In the early 2000s, I came across a Japanese flick called Versus from 2000. I loved it — every frame of it. It was an enjoyably over-the-top feature that combined horror, comedy, fantasy, and martial arts, and took me to a new zenith of cult cinema. From thereon in, I dived into more current offerings from the Land of the Rising Sun, only to encounter a devastating sense of disappointment overall — and the zenith I had hit inverted into a nadir for my appreciation of Japanese cinema.
Now, when I discovered that a 2011 film called Gokudô Heiki (or, Yakuza Weapon as it’s known as in English-speaking parts) was helmed by Versus co-writer, Yûdai Yamaguchi, and had the same star (Tak Sakaguchi) I wondered if it could recapture that sense of exaggerated wackiness without making me hate it.
Instead, Yakuza Weapon is an incredibly dull adaptation of the manga by the late Ken Ishikawa — and one that perpetually challenges viewers to watch it. We open with a mercenary fighter in South America named Shozo Iwaki (Tak Sakaguchi, Japan’s answer to Johnny Depp) who walks straight through battles without fear of destruction, claiming one can only get hit if they’re afraid of getting hit. He — along with his henchmen — are also able to walk on landmines and get blown all the way to enemy headquarters without so much as a scratch. Receiving word his father, a yakuza head, has been killed by a rival gang.
And so, it’s back off to Japan for revenge — but not before establishing, encountering, and eviscerating a number of goofy characters that are so unwatchable, you’ll be begging for mercy. Eventually, both our “hero” and his nemesis injure each other to the point of losing limbs. From there, they receive bionic upgrades and literally become walking weapons. Yakuza weapons, if you will. It’s all for naught, though, I’m afraid: by the time it finally happens, you’ve become so brain dead from all of the onscreen chaos, that you really don’t care.
A low-budget, Shot-on-HD-Video mess, Well Go USA brings Yakuza Weapon to America in a Blu-ray/DVD combo, and a video transfer that is fairly decent for what it’s worth (and really brings out the bad CGI). A Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 MA is the default sound selection, with a Japanese 2.0 track also available. Truth be told, all of the characters shout so much that you may just want to turn the volume down. Fortunately, there are English subtitles that successfully translate the off-the-wall dialogue (and the scenes they belong to) to keep you dumbfounded.
Special feature-wise, there are a couple of featurettes, some deleted scenes, test footage, and a heap of trailers for other Well Go USA titles — most of which I would recommend over Yakuza Weapon any ol’ day.