and vampires depend on carefully balanced ecosystems that are not so different
from Social Security. There absolutely must be more people bleeding money and
plasma into the system than sucking it out. Due to his inexperience, a freshly
turned Yakuza vampire threatens to upset the long term equilibrium, but he will
have more pressing concerns when three agents of doomsday start wreaking cosmic
havoc in Takashi Miike’s Yakuza
which opens tomorrow in New York.
Kamiura is a benevolent Yakuza boss and a vampire, who refuses to drink
civilian blood, even though it is sweeter and more nourishing than the bitter
swill running through Yakuza veins. He has taken earnest Akira Kageyama under
his wing, even though the lad’s skin is too sensitive to tattoo. They see eye
to eye when it comes to giving civilians a fair shake, so when Kamiura is
fatally jumped by Kyoken, a martial arts maniac and his boss, a Spanish priest
carrying a disintegration ray in a casket, the last thing his severed head does
is turn Kageyama into a vampire. Unfortunately, the unprepared Kageyama then
accidentally turns a civilian, who immediately turns another, and so on. Soon
nearly the entire town consists of vampires sporting supernatural Yakuza tats.
things are a mess, but they will only get worse with the arrival of the third representative
of the cosmic syndicate. Kaeru-kun might look like a guy in a fuzzy green frog
costume, but he is as lethal as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. What part of
this being a Miike film didn’t you get?
Yakupoc has been dismissed
as a Miike greatest hits package and there is a kernel of truth in that. One
might have thought he worked through all his Django riffs in Sukiyaki Western Django, but apparently
not. However, Miike is such a gleefully kitchen sink kind of filmmaker he
constantly throws in inspired bits where you least expect them. Indeed, the audience’s
introduction to Kamiura, in which a small army of earthly Yakuza learn the
folly of trying to whack a vampire is truly vintage Miike. There are also a
number of wonderfully droll lines sprinkled throughout the film and without
question, it features some of the best fight choreography ever conceived for a
dude in a downy soft animal costume.
Ichihara is shockingly engaging portraying Kageyama’s maturation process from
awestruck henchman to hardnosed vampire. Largely playing against his usual
hound dog type, Lily Franky is off the hook awesome as Kamiura. Unfortunately,
Yayan Ruhian (the unrelated Mad Dogs in the Raid
films) does have much of a character to work with in Kyoken, or much room
to chew scenery. At least he still has all kinds of moves. The rest of the
Yakuza underlings largely blur together.
When Miike is working in his chaotic one-upsman
bag, his films are sort of like the weather. If it isn’t working for you, just
wait ten minutes and it will change. Yet, even it clicks in fits and starts, it
is exhilarating to watch him embrace the bedlam. His prolific work ethic is
also pretty darn impressive. Recommended for Miike fans, but maybe not the best
starter film for the uninitiated, Yakuza
Apocalypse opens tomorrow (10/9) in New York, at the Village East.
Labels: Japanese Cinema, Takashi Miike, Vampire films, Yakuza films