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Takashi Miike’s Yakuza Apocalypse is part vampire tale, part yakuza lore, part strenuous comedy, and completely a bore. It’s little surprise that the director of 13 Assassins went completely apeshit in his kung-fu riff on Twilight, but it’s not just the action that’s over the top—unless talking, twisted-off heads, and beat-downs from a person (or is it?) in a frog suit, for example, are to your taste.
It must be stressed that the deadly frog—who thinks nothing of knocking aside women—appears near the end of two slapdash, practically incomprehensible hours that are more about group fights than storytelling.
Loosely, the film’s about a yakuza boss who’s worshipped in his town for seeming invincible. After his neck is cracked by a rival’s henchman—and then turned and turned again, until his head is easily popped off—he tells his own right-hand man, Akira Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara), that he’s a vampire and orders him to suck his blood to receive his powers. Afterward, Kageyama seeks to avenge his boss’s death.
If only it were that simple.
From the very beginning of Yakuza Apocalypse, there are an endless number of characters who endlessly battle each other. Though they appear frequently, the town’s other yakuza have the dimension of tissue paper and reappear even after it looks likely that they’ve been rubbed out. Random citizens get vampirized by random people, leading to more fights and neck-sucking attacks.
Some kid in the early chapters of the film asks his father to kill him; we don’t know why. (Though Dad’s willing. World’s Best.) There’s a shady restaurateur who keeps a group of men chained in the basement, knitting, whom he occasionally visits to stomp on their bare feet with the pedi equivalent of brass knuckles. Again—who the hell knows why. At one point a reeking “kappa goblin” appears, announcing through its beak, “Gander all you want at my kappa-ness!”
This happens before not even a half-hour goes by. You’re lost and you’re restless; the film has chased its tail thus far, with no promise of moving forward soon.
Also seemingly important but never defined is the yakuza’s female “Captain,” who takes to staring into space and eventually tilts to the side to let white liquid drain from her head. She soon uses it—or at least she thinks she’s using it—to sprout “civvy” children from the ground so the yakuza vampires have a food supply. This seems to be a delusion, but it’s as clear as her fluid output.
Yakuza Apocalypse just gets weirder and weirder—including the appearance of the frog, whose “death stare” briefly turns people into metronomes—and more and more tiresome. It’s like Miike took a scrapbook of ideas that didn’t make it into his respectable films and dumped them all into this one, with no script, no editing, no point other than to be bonkers.
But in comedy, even randomness often has a touch of reason, and you can’t be successfully silly unless you’re smart about it.
Yakuza Apocalypse opens Friday at the Angelika Pop-Up.