This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
The Yakuza Way is not the second left off Triad Drive, it’s a made for T.V. on a shoestring movie dealing with the usual gangster themes of drug deals, double crossing and honest-to-goodness vengeance. The only thing which distinguishes it from the hundreds of other low-rent tele-movies such as (*shudder*) Cyber Tracker is the presence of Japanese video legend Riki Takeuchi, star of the Dead or Alive series and the eagerly anticipated Battle Royale II. He’s kind of like a violent Hugh Grant in that he can only really play one role, but he can play it very well. I wouldn’t necessarily want to see him in Hamlet, but if it’s wandering around looking menacing with a gun, occasionally sneering, that you’re after, Riki’s your man. I started watching this movie expecting, nay demanding violence, so any suitably violent act will be tallied on the patented Tippy-Yay! scale.
Riki’s taking the role of Kanuma, a Yakuza recently released from prison. He arrives in L.A. to carry out a drug deal with the help of his contact, Mike Sakata (George Cheung). His first priority on meeting Mike is to obtain a weapon, which he duly does. The deal goes off without too much trouble, although the supplier has to kill one of his own goons for being as little too outgoing with information. Loose lips sink ships, so Carlos shoots him (Yay!) before he can cause any further harm. Kanuma walks out with two kilos of cocaine. Mike briefly tries to convince Kanuma to sell the drugs on locally and tell his boss that the deal fell through, pocketing the profits. This is met with a suitably withering stare from Kanuma.
Riki’s girlfriend, Yoko arrives at the airport. She’s an air hostess, and will be using this to smuggle the drugs back to Japan. They head off to a hotel for the night, and Riki declares his intentions to leave the Yakuza and asks Yoko to marry him. This happiness is short-lived, as the next day Yoko is gunned down (Yay!) by a gang as the two make their way to their car. Just as well, I wouldn’t want this turning into a romantic comedy. I want blood, dammit, and I get only the merest taste of it as Kanuma refuses the gang’s reasonable offer of sparing Kanuma if he gives them the drugs in favour of the second option, shooting wildly at the gang’s motor. They beat a hasty retreat at this onslaught, with unfortunately no addition to the body count earning the films its first negative Yay!. It earns it straight back by doing the incredibly cheesy screaming-dead-girls-name-as-cutting-to-long-shots trick.
Kanuma returns to Mike to try to find out who and where this gang is. He must avenge Yoko’s death – It’s the Yakuza way. They drive back to the bar for some questioning, but the barman is playing dumb. This displeases Kanuma, so he lays a beating down. Before this can earn another yay, he is stopped by a shotgun-toting goon who has the same threatening air about him as Pee-Wee Herman. Meanwhile, outside in the car Mike is busy being held up by a woman and her accomplice who make off with the cocaine. On hearing Mike’s protestations, Kanuma decides to terminate these goons with ease, earning a Yay!
Kanuma borrows Mikes’ car to chase the robbers, with the local police seeing this and chasing Kanuma. This is a surprisingly low speed, and hence unsurprisingly boring car chase, and thus a Yay! is removed from the total. In defiance of traditional movie logic, the cops catch our Yakuzavenger.
After a period of stilted and unconvincing questioning from Detective Frank (Gene Gilmore) and Lt. Nicole (Mario Opinato), Mike appears to make with the bail. The cops are unwilling to let him go. Kanuma tires of these badly acted shenanigans, and causally nabs Det. Frank’s gun and walks out holding him at gunpoint.
The cheeky cocaine grabbers are introduced as Eiji (Eugene Nomura) and Rika (Maya Hoshino), who weren’t expecting this drugs bonanza. They try to flog the gear to the local fence, Junkyard Jake, but things turn nasty when one of the original gang’s goons show up to claim the white powdery stuff. In the ensuing escape, Rika shoots Jake earning herself a Yay!. The rest of the gang are stalking Kanuma. When their goon informs them of the cocaine being in Eiji’s possession, they go off in search of him, apart from one deluded fool who decides to take out Kanuma. The resultant stand-off is interrupted before any shooting takes place by the goon being run over by a character who is never named, as far as I know. This fellow with the now dented motor turns out to be an old friend of Kanuma’s family from when they briefly lived in America. Kanuma can’t remember his family, and the mystery gent informs him he has a sister. Of course he doesn’t know it, but viewers will recall Eberts Law of Conservation of Characters and deduce that the only other female in the film, Rika, must be his sister.
Eiji’s having some trouble shifting the gear, probably because he seems to be hawking it to random punters in the street. “Excuse me sir, would you care to purchase two kilos of cocaine?”. While he’s wasting his time and effort, the original gang of ruffians, lead by a fellow called Vincent (Robert MacColl) kidnap Rika. Vincent informs Eiji that he’ll swap the girl for the coke. Eiji’s day get even worse as Kanuma has finally tracked him down and administers a beating. Eiji grabs a sword from his car to try to even the score, but Kanuma’s far too cool to be bothered by this young pup. A further beatdown is given, enough to earn it another Yay!. As Eiji lies bleeding he informs Kanuma of his plight, and why he needs that coke. As they have a common enemy, they join up for some vengeance.
For this they need weapons. Cops have weapons. So they hijack a cop car, stealing an unlikely array of firepower. Handguns and shotguns I’ll accept, but I don’t think standard patrol cars carry Uzis and assault rifles in the boot. They don’t kill the cops but give the car a bit of a going over with the shotgun, which presumably is the approved Yakuza Way. The balls required for this earns the film a half Yay!
Eiji and Kanuma use this plunder to have a showdown with Vincent’s gang in a junkyard. Eiji waves a grenade about in a threatening manner, allowing Kanuma to outflank them. He caps two goons (Yay! Yay!) and Eiji blows up a car (Yay!). They rescue the girl as the gang disperses, but Vincent gets back up – the dirty cheater was wearing a bulletproof vest. For this non-Yakuza Way style conduct I remove one Yay!
Their car overheats, so they hole up in an abandoned gas station. Kanuma borrows a motorbike to go off and get a new motor, calling Mike to achieve this. Unfortunately, it’s revealed he’s in cahoots with the police Lt. Nicole. Further revelations from a random Internal Affairs officer reveals the Lt. Nicole is in fact the mastermind behind Vincent’s drug dealing operation. Dt. Frank can’t believe this, and questions Nicole. He pays for this insolence with his life. Yay!
At this point it becomes convenient for Kanuma to discover that Rika is his sister. It is rather less convenient for Rika, as Vincent’s posse show up and gun her down (Yay! – look, these yays are non-discriminate. They’d be there if it was an innocent bystander, a baby or even Kylie. Yay!s do not bow to morality). Kanuma arrives to chase off these baddies, capping two with his trusty shotgun, earning two more Yay!s, however those nasty chaps manage to make off with the coke.
It’s now clear that Mike’s aligned with the forces of darkness, so the boys visit him. Disappointingly, it looks as if they’re going to spare him, but he makes the classic weasel mistake of trying to shoot him in the back. Eiji shoots him before this non-Yakuza Way activity can occur. The scene is now set for a climatic final battle, or at least the end of the film. Nicole and the remnant of Vincent’s boys have decamped to a villa in Malibu, where a tubby property developer / drug dealer buys the coke. Eiji and Kanuma arrive with thoughts of vengeance, so much so Kanuma destroys a table of fruit with machine gun fire for no readily explicable reason, although perhaps it’s the Yakuza Way. This wanton waste of fruit loses the movie one Yay!
In the resultant shootout, Eiji acquits himself well, gaining three goons and three Yay!s. Kanuma scores one goon (Yay!, natch) and saves Eiji from a certain perforation at the hands of Vincent with a well placed diving shot (Yay!). The final showdown between Kanuma and Nicole recalls Dead or Alive very slightly, with both appearing to become temporarily unaffected by the number of times they shoot each other. After emptying their respective clips, things look bleak for Kanuma. Nicole has a clip to reload, but Kanuma doesn’t. Thankfully Eiji’s brought his sword, as tosses it to Kanuma. Nicole is then kind enough to show us his ‘surprised kebab’ impression, but unfortunately for the film the moment of penetration (ooh, I say missus) is cut from the film, incurring my wrath to the detriment of three whole Yay!s. The cops arrive at the villa, headed by the still unnamed Internal Affairs chap. He arrests the fleeing developer, but does not pursue Eiji and Kanuma due to some nonsense about the Yakuza still following a code of honour, which gives an interesting take-home moral message. Killing is alright if your hearts in the right place, kids!
The movie is rubbish, but far less than it should be. The budget, acting, production values and script are noticeable for their absence. Introducing two characters to dole out bits of background information and never bothering to name them is inexcusable writing. However, Riki Takeuchi is more than capable of making this seem less amateurish than it really is and saves it from being a total disaster. The plot, while astonishingly unoriginal, is a classic tale of vengeance and double-dealing, which is one the classics. It’s a shame that the only other classic thing about the movie is Riki’s wardrobe, which seems to have come straight over from the Miami Vice museum.
Tallying up the final Yay!’s we have the meagre score of 11 and a half. The Yay! scale is normalised against the standard action movie violence benchmark Commando, yielding a score of one. However, this does not take into account the seasonal Takeuchi sneering adjustment, so the final award for this piece of fluff is 2/5.