THE ZONE has my review of Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi’s muddled and disappointing Yakuza Weapon.
The film presents itself partly as a genre spoof and partly as an earnest exercise in splatterpunk excess. Unfortunately, like many recent American attempts at producing a high-budget exploitation film, the film winds up feeling forced and spread too thinly. In my review I explain why this should be:
Back in the late 1950s, filmmakers like Roger Corman realised that there was good money to be made in pandering to youthful audiences. This insight spawned a business model whereby young directors were given small pots of money and instructed to go off and produce something sensational and titillating that might appeal to people from their age group. This business model proved remarkably effective and fueled not just the craze for drive-in movies but also the kinds of exploitation film that played in grind-house cinemas all over America. Given that these filmmakers frequently operated with very little guidance beyond the need to ramp up the sex and violence whilst remaining under budget, exploitation filmmaking rapidly became a sort of Darwinian swamp in which ambitious directors experimented with new techniques in the hope that their films would out-compete those of their contemporaries. However, as with all evolutionary processes, exploitation film produced far more failures than it did successes meaning that for every John Carpenter and Dario Argento there were dozens of Uwe Bolls.
Fast-forward 30 years and the kids who grew up watching exploitation films became the cigar-chomping producers who handed out pots of money. Mindful of the market for nostalgia, these producers green-lit a series of high profile projects designed to tap into the market for exploitation-style filmmaking. Cue the emergence of films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Deathproof (2007), Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror (2007), Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell (2009), Patrick Lussier’s Drive Angry (2011), and the entire back catalogue of Neveldine/ Taylor. Though not without its artistic and commercial successes, this grind-house revival suffers for the fact that most of its excesses come not a desperate need to do something radically different in order to stretch a budget and capture an audience but from a deliberate attempt to parody or recapture the insane experiments of the past.
Part of the joy of watching exploitation films lies in their sheer unpredictability. Exploitation filmmakers are so desperate to find an audience that they will do anything to capture our attention and this can produce some really memorable cinematic moments. However, when the director is provided with a lavish budget in order to intentionally recapture that feeling of desperate experimentation, the results invariably feel forced and stage-managed like some grim party where everyone is so desperate to have a good and crazy time that the excess of good will completely smothers all spontaneity and freedom. Technically flawed and way, way, way too long for what is essentially a two joke film, Yakuza Weapon is disappointingly dull.