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In the 80's American, and Japanese auto makers were bitter rivals. Company cultures were different, and Americans everywhere feared an invasion of Japanese products into even more facets of the American economy. In the 80's movie Gung Ho these tensions are presented in a most unique fashion.
An American autoplant is purchased and retooled to manufacture cars for a Japanese company. This transaction saves countless jobs for a small town. Michael Keaton plays an American Auto worker that attempts to bridge the gap between American workers and Japanese managers which have just arrived to run the plant. Despite cultural differences, the Japanese are determined to see this new American plant produce as efficently as plants back home in Japan. A raise is promised to the American workers if a a quota for manufactured cars is met. Only old Michael Keaton knows just what this quota truly is. He lies to his men and states the quota is a few thousand less than it really is to motivate his men.
The Japanese managers learn of this lie and Michael Keaton is forced to tell the truth about his lie to the whole town in a meeting. What made this especially tough is that the mayor of the town had just told the people how wonderful Keaton's character is for saving the town.
Once word of the lie gets out, everyone strikes. Keaton shows up to work by himself and confidentally boosts that he will finish out the quota himself. Two thousand cars or so is a day's work it seems, if he only skips lunch. Shortly after seeing the determination, the other workers join him one by one. At last the plant is at full production. Everyone really is hauling ass and building cars. They work as a well oiled machine; as new auto parts are needed they are quickly placed and work is begun on the next car.
As the day draws to a close, the Japanese company president comes to inspect the plant personally and see if it could meet the quota. Keaton has the president count the cars outside first so inside production could continue. On the last few "we will have to cut some corners" states Keaton's character. Small things like engines would just have to be left out.
As the final cars are counted inside, Keaton pretends to be cleaning a windshield and getting it spotless. There was no glass in the car though, and the Japanese President quickly saw this. Michael Keaton then gets into a car and says that he is proud of the cars that "we", the Japanese and Americans had made together. He starts it up and to many's surprise it cranks. The car goes a bit forward then the seat throws Keaton back and the back of the car falls apart.
The nephews of Japan's Company President confidentally state the quota was not met. The president however liked Keaton and proclaimed "You make me laugh." The raise is granted provided the cars are all brought up to standard before leaving the factory.
Gung Ho in many ways represented the corporate rivalry between US and Japanese firms in the 80's. The Japanese insisted on discipline, company fitness routines, and putting work before family. Keaton gets into a dispute with one Japanese middle manager over the man's unwillingess to stand up to his own uncle to ask for some time off to be with his newly born child. Keaton states that if the Japs are so much better then "why did you lose the big one." This was a reference to WWII. Many such cultural clashes are present and really serve to reinforce the rivalries between US and Japanese firms in the 80's.
Gung Ho, is a corporate comedy with a historical perspective. There are very few of these, and for this reason its a classic.
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