Saturday, May 07, 2016

Yakuza Apocalypse – review

Director: Takashi Miike

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

Prolific director Takashi Miike is no stranger to the vampire genre his film Tennen shôjo Man next: Yokohama hyaku-ya was a vampire film and the film Izo had a vampire moment in it.

I was aware of this film for a while and had it on pre-order for the UK release. A pre-order that was pushed back, and back and back. But, hey, let’s not dwell on that the film is out and it is… well probably the best description I could come up with is bat-sh*t crazy.

back piece
It begins with a yakuza, Kamiura (Rirî Furankî), walking along a street when he is attacked. It turns into a battle through the streets and into a building with Kamiura seemingly unstoppable. Eventually he meets a boss figure who shoots him but that doesn’t stop him either and he kills the boss. We see him reach a woman who runs to him but he latches on to her neck. This is accompanied by a narration by Akira Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara). Kamiura becomes the boss of the area and Kageyama always wanted to be like him. When we first see Kageyama he is in a bath and Kamiura is nearby, we notice his impressive back piece tattoo including a bat.

a cup of blood
Kamiura’s rule is that civilians are not to be hurt. We see his men rescue a woman being brutally raped and Kageyama caring for her in hospital. The other Yakuza dislike Kageyama especially as he isn’t tattooed because he has sensitive skin. Kamiura has a secret area where chained rival yakuza are rehabilitated (through knitting and occasional tortuous methods) and the reason why will be revealed shortly. He also seems to have plans for Kageyama – and we see him take the protégé to the tea room above the yakuza rehabilitation area and even feed him blood to see if he can drink it.

Kageyama (off screen) attacks some rival yakuza for attacking a civilian and other members of their clan are sent to smooth the waters. Whilst they are away a priest (yushin Tei) with a coffin shaped backpack and a supposed geeky looking man who is a demon martial artist (Yayan Ruhian) come and make the boss an offer to rejoin their cartel. When he refuses they attack him, Kageyama being laid out during the action. The priest shoots Kamiura with a bizarre gun that fires an electrical burst, and then uses the same weapon to suction his blood out before the geek literally rips his head off. Kageyama sees that it was a betrayal by his own clan before passing out. He comes round and looks at the boss' severed head but the eyes open and it latches to his neck, turning Kageyama into a vampire yakuza and the boss’ tattoo transfers to his back.

vampire's tongue
So, the rules. The vampires in this do not bite so much as the teeth latch on as the tongue pierces the neck. They suck blood (and the kanji for suck appears briefly on the victim’s forehead). We are told that civilian blood is tasty and addictive and yakuza blood tastes bad and doesn’t nourish properly. This is why the boss was rehabilitating yakuza to offer him a reasonable beverage without attacking civilians. A civilian attacked will immediately turn into a yakuza vampire and attack other civilians turning them – one, a young boy, develops a small bat back tattoo when Kageyama purposefully turns him.

ready to fight
If it sounds strange so far, throw in a kappa and the most dangerous monster ever, which is a martial artist wearing a felt frog suit with eyes that can death stare a rival and cause them to turn into a living metronome. The ideas come thick and fast and so does the weirdness. Is there a point, or underlying message? I don’t really think so, I think it is just one hell of a strange trip. But that doesn’t make it bad. The film moves along with a slickness that keeps you hooked, thick with action, violence and general strangeness. I can honestly say I did enjoy it.

axe to the head
I should mention that the UK DVD has hardcoded subtitles and that the film will not appeal to you if you dislike absolute weirdness in your films. However if you do like weirdness, and you like Miike’s style and a bit of high octane martial arts riding a truly bizarre vehicle then you might just like this. I did feel that some of the ideas became lost – the priest character and kappa just seemed to fade out of the story and could have been used that little bit more. Nevertheless, 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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