Japanese auteur Takeshi Miike is a rather eclectic figure in cinema. His filmography ranges across every genre, from esteemed horror films such as Audition, family friendly pics like Zebraman and The Great Yokai War to bizarre genre-redefining musical mash-up The Happiness of the Katakuris and hyper-violent yakuza fantasy Ichi The Killer. One of the most prolific directors of the last few decades, Miike`s films push the boundaries of the bizarre and even the out-right insane. His latest piece, Yakuza Apocalypse is no different.
After an awesome trailer and a fantastic pitch; vampire yakuza gangsters take over Tokyo, fans of Miike were eager to see his newest venture, but does the picture live up to the hype? Does a reviewer ever ask that question if a film has succeeded? The answer to both of these questions is, alas, “no”.
Set in the gritty Tokyo underworld, Yakuza Apocalypse sees warring gangs battling it out with each other whilst struggling with the realization that one of the gangs has actually been being led by a bloodthirsty demon. When the leader`s protégé takes his place as the don, he unwittingly begins to infect citizens with his vampiric curse. What ensues is a crazed cocktail of weird monsters, campy vampire hunters and a convoluted tale of gangster revenge.
The biggest problem with Yakuza Apocalypse is that it really doesn`t seem to know what it wants to be as a film. It`s got the uber-violence of Miike`s darkest films, and indeed at times, the bloodbath is a great watch, harking back to his Ichi days, but it is hindered by the utter ridiculousness of his yokai flicks, giving it a rather childish and bewildering air. As such, it`s difficult to tell just how seriously we are supposed to take it. Added to this the typically over the top acting that sadly comes with many Japanese ventures, and a cast of heroes including a bizarre kappa beast and a monster slayer dressed in a Disneyland-esque frog costume, Miike`s tale is more reminiscent of Noboru Iguchi`s mutant girl films than his gritty earlier works.
If you`re a fan of schlock, or indeed or the utterly deranged, this will be a must-see, and indeed could well become of cult classic in whatever genre it deems worthy to fall into. If, however, like most, you are expecting a dark and ballsy yakuza horror, you might want to give Yakuza Apocalypse a miss.
Dir: Takeshi Miike
Scr: Yoshitaka Yamaguchi
Starring: Yayan Ruhian, Riri Furanki, Hayato Ichihara, Mio Yuki
Prd: Yoshinori Chiba, Shinichiro Masuda, Shinjiro Nishimura, Misako Saka
DOP: Hajime Kanda
Music: Koji Endo
Run time: 115mins
Yakuza Apocalypse is out in selected cinemas from 6th January