Taglines: When East meets West, the laughs shift into high gear!
The local auto plant in fictional Hadleyville, Pennsylvania, which supplied most of the town’s jobs, has been closed for nine months. The former foreman Hunt Stevenson (Michael Keaton) goes to Tokyo to try to convince the Assan Motors Corporation to reopen the plant. The Japanese company agrees and, upon their arrival in the U.S., they take advantage of the desperate work force to institute many changes.
The workers are not permitted a union, are paid lower wages, are moved around within the factory so that each worker learns every job, and are held to seemingly impossible standards of efficiency and quality. Adding to the strain in the relationship, the Americans find humor in the demand that they do calisthenics as a group each morning and that the Japanese executives eat their lunches with chopsticks and bathe together in the river near the factory. The workers also display a poor work ethic and lackadaisical attitude toward quality control.
The Japanese executive in charge of the plant is Takahara Kazuhiro (Gedde Watanabe), who has been a failure in his career thus far because he is too lenient on his workers. When Hunt first meets Kazuhiro in Japan, Kazuhiro is being ridiculed by his peers and being required to wear ribbons of shame. He has been given one final chance to redeem himself by making the American plant a success.
Intent on becoming the strict manager his superiors expect, he gives Hunt a large promotion on the condition that he work as a liaison between the Japanese management and the American workers, to smooth the transition and convince the workers to obey the new rules. More concerned with keeping his promotion than with the welfare of his fellow workers, Hunt does everything he can to trick the American workers into compliance, but the culture clash becomes too great and he begins to lose control of the men.
In an attempt to solve the problem, Hunt makes a deal with Kazuhiro: if the plant can produce 15,000 cars in one month, thereby making it as productive as the best Japanese auto plant, then the workers will all be given raises and jobs will be created for the remaining unemployed workers in the town. However, if the workers fall even one car short, they will get nothing.
When Hunt calls an assembly to tell the workers about the deal, they balk at the idea of making so many cars in so short a time. Under pressure from the crowd, Hunt lies and says that if they make 13,000, they will get a partial raise. After nearly a month of working long hours toward a goal of 13,000—despite Hunt’s pleas for them to aim for the full 15,000—the truth is discovered and the workers strike.
Gung Ho is a 1986 American comedy film directed by Ron Howard and starring Michael Keaton and Gedde Watanabe. The story portrayed the takeover of an American car plant by a Japanese corporation (although the title is an Americanized Chinese expression, for “work” and “together”). The film was rated PG-13 in the US and certified 15 in the UK. Most of the movie was filmed on location in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area with additional scenes shot in Tokyo and Argentina.
Gung Ho (1986)
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Michael Keaton, Gedde Watanabe, George Wendt, Mimi Rogers, John Turturro, Sab Shimono, Rick Overton, Clint Howard, Michelle Johnson, Patti Yasutake
Screenplay by: Edwin Blum, Lowell Ganz
Production Design by: James L. Schoppe
Cinematography by: Donald Peterman
Film Editing by: Daniel P. Hanley, Mike Hill
Costume Design by: Betsy Cox
Set Decoration by: John H. Anderson
Art Direction by: Jack G. Taylor Jr.
Music by: Thomas Newman
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: March 14, 1986