Ever go head to head with actor/martial artist by way of street fighter Tak Sakaguchi? Neither has Team Unwinnable, but we did attend the NYC Premier of his latest film Yakuza Weapon during the NYAFF and blew the foam off of a few Sapporos with actor Arata Yamanaka during the Sushi Typhoon after party. Read on as Peter, Kurt and Olivia share their impressions of a night with the most fun production company in Japan.
“Punch and kick.” Those were the words with which Tak Sakaguchi chose to introduce Yakuza Weapon. There was plenty of that, as showcased by the four-minute, single-shot fight sequence bridging the first and second acts of the film, but there was so much more. Shit, the Japanese government outfitted the man with a machine gun arm and a rocket launching kneecap. Throw in an Uzi-wielding old flame, hyper drug-tweaked hobos and some toupee antics and you might start to get the picture.
And what would a Sushi Typhoon film be without a hyper-phallic nuclear detonator?
Co-directed by Tak Sakaguchi and Yudai Yamaguchi and based on Ken Ishikawa’s manga of the same name (surprisingly it’s the first full film adaptation of his work), Yakuza Weapon is an all-out assault on good taste. A smorgasbord of genre tropes (in it you’ll find nods to Rambo, Predator and even James Bond), the film is as violently impulsive and badass as its antihero, Shozo, all the while managing to remain wholly original. Yet for all of its gratuity, Yakuza Weapon is a crisp, visually engaging film that defies its admitted low budget.
The film also, if only accidentally, may have opened the door for a new nuclear narrative in Japan. While going into detail would be giving away too much, I will say that Yakuza Weapon succeeds in illustrating a transcendent inner strength and perseverance through the lens of Yakuza ethics. This isn’t a moment of over-intellectualization – there isn’t much room for that in grindhouse cinema, and nine times out of ten it’s full of shit – but a recognition of the value of the absurd, that there may be a message – unintentional or otherwise – in the madness.
Speaking of madness, what would a Sushi Typhoon premiere be without an after-party?
While the Sapporo flowed, Team Unwinnable was able to raise a few with Sushi Typhoon everyman Arata Yamanaka. In between checking out American babes and mulling the prospects of getting the man laid, we discussed U.S. premieres, working with Noboru Iguchi and Yoshihiro Nishimura and the nostalgic importance of Karate-Robo Zaborgar. Yamanaka bled enthusiasm talking about Sushi Typhoon and exchanging jokes, stories and festival moments. The folks at Sushi Typhoon know how to make a damn good movie, but they also know how to make a better impression. It isn’t fan service, it’s a drive to make quality, over the top cinema and to have fun doing it – something that’s going to keep them in the game for a long, long time.