Thursday, October 8, 2015

Yakuza Apocalypse - Movie Review

Yakuza Apocalypse is an action comedy from acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miike who's previous work includes classic films like 13 Assassins, Audition, and Ichi the Killer. The movie features performances by Hayato Ichihara, Yayan Ruhian, Rirî Furankî, Riko Narumi, Pierre Taki, Mio Yûki, and Kiyohiko Shibukawa. For my Seattle area readers, you can watch this movie at the Sundance Cinemas beginning Friday, October 9th and, for those following along at home, it will also be available On Demand that same day.

The Story:
The Yakuza have controlled the Japanese underground for centuries. Boss Kamiura (Frankie), a legendary member of the crime syndicate who is rumored to be invincible, has been acting on his own for some time although his former colleagues have sent a highly skilled assassin (Ruhian) to either bring him back or kill him off. Faced with his own mortality, Kamiura passes on a special gift to Kagayama (Ichihara), one of his most trusted allies. Things get really interesting when Kagayama realizes he is now turning into a vampire and the entire world begins falling apart around him.

The Review:
I have to say this was a very strange movie. Takashi Miike, as usual, pulls no punches when it comes to the action and injects plenty of humor to go along with an extra helping of absurdity. When you have one of your primary villains dressed up in a giant fuzzy frog outfit as well as a beaked goblin creature in your movie, you're definitely not worried about getting a little weird. I was a little surprised that the movie didn't have a more epic size and scale to it although keeping everything contained inside one village was probably necessary as it's pretty clear Miike didn't have much of a budget to work with. The fight scenes are choreographed really well and I imagine Yayan Ruhian had a lot to do with that as he is mostly known for coordinating all the fight scenes in both The Raid: Redemption and The Raid 2: Berendal.

There is so much going on in this film and so many characters to keep track of, some of the more minor story lines end up getting glossed over or just lost in the shuffle and I really think that dropping out some of the peripheral stuff would have made this a much better film. While Kagayama is clearly the hero of the film, Miike doesn't really do much to allow the audience to get to know him or understand why we should be rooting for him other than he was the Boss's favorite henchman. There is a bit of a love story thrown in but not nearly enough time is spent on it to make it have any impact but I guess you have to have it in there so it is. By the time the movie is over, you really get the idea that this may have all been setting things up for a much bigger story to be played out in future installments although I'm not sure if this one has enough going for it to justify going down that road.

The Verdict:
Yakuza Apocalypse is a movie that you don't want to take too seriously, but it is a lot of fun to watch and I would probably put it in the same category as films like Robegeisha and Kung Fu Hustle. It is being advertised as "a comedic vampire thriller, a gangster epic, a martial-arts extravaganza and an end-of-the-world spectacle" and I really can't argue with any of that so, if you're into that sort of thing, you should definitely check this movie out.


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