What I love about video games and the industry is the way they cross over into other forms of media such as books, fashion, film, politics — and movies. Yes we are going to talk about the taboo that is the video-game movie.
Why now? In two weeks and for one night only, a new video-game movie will be out in participating theaters called Tekken Blood Vengeance. Will it suffer the same problems of most other video game movies? We won’t know till it comes out.
As many gamers will attest, turning video games into movies is sometimes a very bad idea (think Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros. and anything made by Uwe Boll). Which begs the question, “Are there any good video-game movies out there?” Why yes, yes there are. While not the summer blockbuster that Sands of Time was supposed to be (which I thought was done very well), Yakuza got a straight-to-DVD release and is still fairly unknown, even to fans of the game.
We in the West know yakuza as Japanese version of the Italian mob. In Japan there’s anime, manga, magazines, and even video games and movies about the yakuza. The movie video game I’ll be talking about Yakuza: Like a Dragon, or for those who prefer the Japanese title Ry? ga Gotoku Gekij?ban.
Like a Dragon is loosely based on the video game of the same series, Yakuza, but is condensed into a single night and containing a couple of sub-plots not found in the game. The movie takes place in the fictional red light district of Kamurocho. The people are experiencing one of the hottest nights in record history. Hero and main character Kazuma Kiryu, formerly of the Tojo Clan, just got out of jail after serving 10 years and has a young girl, Haruka Sawamura, in tow. She's searching for her mother, last seen in Kamurocho, when two amateur bank robbers try to hold up a bank used by the Tojo Clan, only to find out that 10 billion Yen have already gone missing. This gets out to fellow clan member Goro Majima, who hears that Kazuma is in town and assumes the ex-felon must have taken the money. So Goro gathers his gang and goes on a city-wide search. To add to the mayhem, a couple crazed from the heat start holding up stores. Throw in a South Korean hit man searching for the real culprit behind the disappearance of the Tojo Clan’s money and havoc is complete.
It’s safe to say there is a lot going on in the movie. The action is constant with fleeting breaks to let the viewer catch their breath.
This is a shining example of what a video-game movie can be when the slime of Hollywood investors are left out. Having a director who knows what he is doing doesn’t hurt either. Directing duties are taken by none other than Takishi Mike, the godfather of yakuza-themed movies. He helps craft a movie that’s both authentic to the feel of the yakuza in Tokyo and stays true to the feel of the game’s main storyline, with some subplots to pad out the 110-minute feature.
The DVD is slim on extra features, only displaying the trailer to the movie and a few of Takishi Mike’s other movies. The movie is also entirely in Japanese with English subtitles, which is fine by me but may put others off. It's hard to find in store (I got lucky), but it can be easily tracked down online. If you have played the yakuza games, love Japanese cinema, or are looking for a movie with lots of action and a bit of heart, then don’t pass up on Yakuza: Like a Dragon. This movie proves that there are video game movies out there that don’t suck, they can just be hard to find.
— Mike V.