YAKUZA APOCALYPSE

PrintE-mail Written by Ian White

If there’s one thing we could say about Takashi Miike… he certainly keeps his audiences on their toes. From the hardcore horror of Audition to the psychopathic Sound of Music weirdness of The Happiness of the Katakuris to the bizarre surrealism of Gozu, to the classical revenge opus Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (and many, many more), Miike must be cinema’s busiest loose cannon, somersaulting across genres and karate-kicking his way through filmmaking conventions. Yakuza Apocalypse is no exception and, even though it isn’t an outright success, it is ridiculously imaginative, infectiously audacious and packed with moments that will leave you asking ‘Did that really happen?’ as you hit the rewind button.

It’s a simple story: Kamiura (Lily Franky) is the boss of a Yakuza clan who (although his underlings don’t know this yet) is also a vampire. After he is killed during a brutal confrontation with a witch-hunter and his assistant (Yayan Ruhian, dressed like the world’s deadliest nerd), Kamiura’s disembodied head bites the neck of his chief enforcer Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara) and enlists him into the ranks of the undead.

Within moments, Kageyama is laying waste to the civilian population, and everyone he bites becomes a ‘yakuza vampire’ as well – a schoolteacher and his wife, a schoolgirl, a Nurse, a wimpy young boy who suddenly becomes extremely proficient with an axe. But when a kappa water-demon with very bad body odour arrives on the scene, quickly followed by ‘the world’s toughest terrorist’ (a phenomenal martial artist dressed in a giant frog costume, who also has the power of the death-stare), the madness goes into overdrive. And did we mention the cartel boss who begins squirting icky white fluid out of her ear, and then starts growing people in a greenhouse?

Yep, this movie is insane. It also plays hard and fast with conventional vampire mythos so ‘Dracula’ purists should probably not apply.

The performances are terrific (especially the noxious scene-stealing water demon, who looks like a tramp with a pantomime beak jammed in his mouth) and, unsurprisingly, the violence is impressive and extremely well staged even though many of the martial arts duels are executed with tongue planted firmly in cheek. And the transition from victims-into-vampires, although subtle, looks extremely unpleasant (when the vampire schoolteacher and his wife chase down the screaming schoolgirl it’s genuinely horrifying.) But Miike doesn’t seem to realise that too much ridiculousness can be a bad thing, the climactic battles become repetitive, the ending of the story is incoherent (and, unlike everything that came before, not in a good way) and, ultimately, the film outstays its welcome by at least twenty minutes. Still, considering the first hour and a half is rampant genius, most of those faults are easy to overlook.

Far from being Takashi Miike’s best work, this is still a film that’s worth digging your teeth into.

YAKUZA APOCALYPSE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: TAKASHI MIIKE / SCREENPLAY: YOSHITAKA YAMAGUCHI / STARRING: YAYAN RUHIAN, RIRI FURANKI, HAYATO ICHIHARA / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

 


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