Yakuza Apocalypse

Dir: Takeshi Miike
Star: Hayato Ichihara, Yayan Ruhian, Riko Narumi, Lily Franky

Miike may be renowned for his surreal excess, but it always seemed to me that his movies work best when this is restrained, or at least constrained by a degree of logical structure. For it's the resulting contrast that is most impressive, rather than feeling like merely the products of a deranged imagination. Unfortunately, that isn't the case here: it feels more like a random grab-bag of ideas Miike jotted on the back of a sake-mat, during a particularly long and ferocious bender in Roppongi. The hero is Kageyama (Ichihara), a wannabe yakuza, but one who doesn't want the tattoos. Right up, that is, until he is bitten by his boss Kamuira (Franky), who is actually a vampire. And, as anyone who saw Innocent Blood knows, those and mobsters are not a great mix, especially because the infection tends to spread. In this case, the bitten get resurrected as grumpy, low-level yakuza, with that mix of attitude and harsh gutturals. But in their wake is also a pair of vampire hunters, a kappa (a creature from Japanese folklore) and a martial arts master dressed in a frog costume.

Why? Because, it appears, it all amuses Miike, and that may be the problem. It's a bit like the worst of Quentin Tarantino in terms of utter self-indulgence; for anyone on the outside, especially if you don't have a significant degree of knowledge concerning the culture of Japan. Any outsiders are likely to be more bemused than amused - and even I, who has seen more Miike movies than those of almost any other director (mostly because he has MADE so damn many!), would put myself in that category. Sporadically amusing though chunks of this are, as it goes on, with absurdity being heaped on top of absurdity, the returns diminish significantly, and the end result is as much as mess as the poster on the right, which appears to have been constructed by throwing character photos in the air. I actually fell asleep before the end, in what I think was a desperate act of self-preservation by my subconscious mind. On balance, it was probably for the best.

[October 2015]

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