Wednesday, 14 March 2012


Film: Yakuza Hunters: The Ultimate Battle Royale
UK Release date: 19th March 2012
UK Distributor: Cine Du Monde
Certificate: 18
Director: Kazushi Nakadaira
Starring: Asami, Jiro Sato, Rena Komine, Misato Tate, Rumi Hiiragi
Running time: 92 mins
Genre: Action/Horror
Country: Japan
Subtitles: English
Reviewer: Adam Wing

When it comes to movies starring Asami (Gothic & Lolita Psycho, The Machine Girl), should we really be worrying about specifics? Everything we need to know is laid out for us in the opening credits sequence. A young girl pulls herself from an early grave, badly beaten and chained to a wooden cross. She’s tired and weary, delirious and deadly - not to mention pretty much naked. We watch her cross the deserted landscape to the beats of a funky, retro soundtrack, still for all intents and purposes, pretty much naked.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Yakuza Hunters, the first of two films directed by Kazushi Nakadaira and Shin’ichi Okuda respectively. Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police) takes charge of the special effects and make up, with VFX supervision provided by Tsuyoshi Kazuno (The Machine Girl). Also starring Jiro Sato (20th Century Boys Pt.2) and Kenji Motomiya, Yakuza Hunters 1: The Ultimate Battle Royale is available for the first time this month courtesy of Cine du Monde.

Asami (also playing a character called Asami) is left for dead by the treacherous Junko (Komine), a former member of her all girl gang. Returning to town several years later, Asami discovers that Junko is working for the Yakuza and her hometown is a hive of drugs, prostitution and villainy. In order to save it, Asami teams up with a quartet of gun toting babes locked, loaded and ready for action. Dressed in next to nothing (go figure), Asami and her ‘Yakuza Hunters’ take to the streets in search of simple-minded madmen and the taste of sweet revenge.

With questionable acting, over the top characters and a leading lady capable of firing bullets from the palm of her hand, Yakuza Hunters belongs to a sub-genre that defies characterisation. CGI blood oozes from every frame, swords clash and severed limbs fly, all in the name of anarchic entertainment. It’s an action movie and a revenge thriller rolled into one, with buckets of CGI blood thrown in for good measure. Normal reviewing policy doesn’t apply to films starring Asami, but then again how could it? When your CV consists of curiosities like Erotibot, Your Mom Is A Bitch and my own personal favourite, Rape Zombie: Lust Of The Dead, rules fly out the window along with the local henchmen. Besides, Asami will always have a place in my heart for the way she wields a chainsaw - The Machine Girl we salute you.

The fight sequences (when they come) are deliciously dirty, but Yakuza Hunters drags its (high) heels from time to time, boosting the running time with layers of misjudged sincerity. Emotional downpours don’t really work in a film like this, but Kazushi Nakadaira feels the need to dig a little deeper, laying on sentiment thick and fast and halting the hike of insanity. Is anyone really tuning in to Yakuza Hunters in search of heartfelt emotion? All we really want is unadulterated action, blistering brutality and calculated carnage, presented on a platter of naked hotties and washed down with a funky soundtrack.

For the most part it delivers, but there are times when you wish the filmmakers would just cut to the chase. One scene in particular is an absolute riot though, as our scantily clad Yakuza Hunters take on an assortment of bad guys on the local riverbank. It’s an extended battle sequence that more than lives up to the promise of the title, and an absolute joy from start to finish. Asami’s acting is over ambitious at times but you can’t fault her enthusiasm, at least she knows how to fill a TV screen and her striking presence is always welcome. Rena Komine sure looks great as the devilish Junko but her villainous laughter is too extreme, even for a film of this magnitude. Her performance is all over the place, straying from evil nemesis to cartoon kingpin in the blink of an eye. The rest of the cast don’t really get a look in, but their body parts make for a welcome diversion from the drama.

Yakuza Hunters doesn’t always get the balance right, and the second act suffers from repetitive themes and needless soul searching, but ample charms are always on hand to beat down the doors of discouragement. With a retro soundtrack and gore by the bucket load, Yakuza Hunters kicks enough Yakuza ass to make the prospect of part 2 a welcome one, and I’m sure Asami will be pretty much naked in that one as well.

All pictures © Cine Du Monde 2012

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