YAKUZA APOCALYPSE | SUFF

When editing Kernel Andrew’s review I read “Miike gives us a man in a slightly moulting felt frog costume” and had a little “this will be funny chuckle,” and then I saw the costume – holy cow!! This film looks insane, not insane as in freaking brilliant, as in Miike dumped a few tabs, then threw a TV through a window in a mental institution to escape and make this movie. I no longer smoke weed and I know this film will not be for me but for Andrew and huge fans of Miike this film will be for you! We reviewed this from the now finished Sydney Underground Film Festival 2015. You would need to track it down online for viewing if in Australia, and suggest you read Andrew’s review before and after viewing, it may explain the insanity for you :). All the best……….JK.

 

yakuza apocalypse movie poster image
YAKUZA APOCALYPSE | SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY ANDREW BRUSENTSEV

Takashi Miike is a Japanese genre kingpin. It can be argued that Miike invented the low budget, sometimes x-rated, bizarrely plotted and genre twisting form of “V-Cinema”. The Japanese have adored his work for a decade or more and it wasn’t long until the West especially film geeks and major festivals caught up to the adoration. Although many people have combined the gangster film (in Japan, the Yakuza) with martial arts or the supernatural, nobody but nobody has taken this genre and crammed a whole lot of LSD down its mouth and said to it….”ok show me what you got”. Miike’s recent work has been pretty paint the numbers though compared to genre landmarks such as ICHI THE KILLER, THE AUDITION or his classics FUDO: THE NEW GENERATION, FULL METAL YAKUZA, bawdy action-fantasies like DEAD OR ALIVE or DEAD OR ALIVE 2: THE BIRDS (2000).

After several years making movies that Miike could make in his sleep the genre king promised a return to his origins. A vampire, gangster, action / comedy aptly titled YAKUZA APOCALYPSE: THE GREAT WAR OF THE UNDERWORLD. So did it succeed? I was keen to answer this for myself as a massive fan. I went to a late night screening at the Sydney Underground Film Festival. The room was packed with film devotees. A mixed bunch of all ages and tastes it seem. This was good to see. The press I have been following has not been kind. Variety called this movie “A lazily executed dud padded out with infantile pranks, shambolic plot turns and knockabout action”. Others have called it instant genre ramen for fan boys. Most unkind I would say.

 

yakuza apocalypse movie image
YAKUZA APOCALYPSE | SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE IMAGE

 

So what is YAKUZA APOCALYPSE you may ask? At its heart the movie is a Yakuza melodrama of sorts. But that would only scratch the surface. To this Miike has added elements of vampire thriller, slapstick comedy, monster-movie and pop-culture pastiche (there are references to E.T, MONKEY and GODZILLA among others).

Our story starts with Yakuza boss Kamiura (Lily Franky who was quite brilliant in the deeply touching drama LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON some years ago. Also as a smirking psycho killer in THE DEVIL’S PATH). Kamiura turns out to be a vampire, draining the local population of not just their savings but their precious plasma. He is quite benevolent. He is seen walking around the populace helping a town obviously in the grips of an economic downturn, he gives back some of the protection money it takes. Our hero is Kamiura’s protégé Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara) whose ambition to join the gang has hitherto been thwarted by an allergy to tattoos (all Yakuza have tattoos). This is a strange quirky touch but Miike is fond of these little details. The boss likes him.

All seems to be “normal” (well it is for a Miike film) but then some foreign heavies arrive in the form of consisting of an English-speaking witch-hunter with a Django-like coffin on his back, an ultra-violent anime geek (Yayan Ruhian, from THE RAID films) and a water-demon with terrible personal hygiene. Kamiura defends his turf, but doesn’t come out of the confrontation well, and on his deathbed, he bites Kageyama’s neck, so he can continue to carry out the clan’s vampiric work.

 

yakuza apocalypse movie image
YAKUZA APOCALYPSE | SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE IMAGE

 

After that, all bets are off. With Kageyama increasing in power as a creature of the night and turning everyone who he bites into similar bloodsuckers the cartel summons the “Modern Monster”. This is vintage Miike. Others would give us some muscle bound never die adversary. Miike gives us a man in a slightly moulting felt frog costume. But turning this on its head he also possesses astonishing martial arts prowess conversely still requires help getting up and down a staircase. Don’t question it just go with it. The audience did; by this stage in hysterics. Kageyama and the remnants of his crew vow to take down this dread beast, and the cartel with it. Avenging their boss. There are other crazy side plots and diversions but I will leave them alone for you to discover

The genre on acid brilliance of Miike’s film lies in the way he simultaneously gives us sublime near-perfect film shots with ridiculous dialogue. Such as the martial arts battles which are played for laughs but which still showcase Ichihara and Ruhian’s perfect marital athleticism. Miike shoots the combat sequences from an over-the-shoulder angle perfect to show two physical actors of this calibre.

 

yakuza apocalypse movie image
YAKUZA APOCALYPSE | SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE IMAGE

 

As for the frog, he had brought the house down by the time we get to the ending. He is absolutely perfect. This is another memorable Miike character to add to his staple. He will be a source of laughter for years to come. For those expecting a martial arts spectacle I must warn this movie may not be for you. It is played for laughs not punches. The climatic showdown veers off into some strange land where I like to think Miike spends most of his thinking time.

The most outstanding craft contribution is the nostalgic re-creation of a ’70s Showa-era downtown shopping district. The editor Kenji Yamashita’s erratically paces the jump cuts and transitions editing cuts abruptly between scenes which can be a bit jarring but which adds to the overall sense of weirdness I think. The funniest contribution may be Koji Endo whose score parodies the operatic music that accompanied violent yakuza films of the ’70s. It sits strangely underneath the visual spectacle. It’s perfect.

For those expecting a hard-boiled Yakuza movie or another perfectly executed Kung-Fu flick walk on. This is Takahashi Miike movie and it is what it is.

 

4 Pops

 

 

When asked what is good in life? Kernel Andrew will tell you film, music and beer is all you need. Equal parts Star Wars fanboy, sci-fi nerd, horror head, comic book tragic and Playstation fanatic. You can find him ranting on these things and others on his twitter feed @abrusentsev