After being the premiere voice in extremist cinema in the 2000s, Takashi Miike (‘Audition‘, ‘Ichi the Killer‘) took about a decade off from delivering his usual cinematic assaults of absolute madness. However, after feeling a little disappointed that no one stepped up to fill in his place, Miike announced last year that he would return to his wild ways with the appropriately titled ‘Yakuza Apocalypse’. The resulting movie is certainly insane, yet far from his best.
It’s pretty much impossible to describe the plot of ‘Yakuza Apocalypse’ in sentences that make sense, but I’ll try. Essentially, a Yakuza gang starts to lose power once a Django-style fighting priest shows up in town along with his anime-loving, kung-fu fighting buddy. Fortunately, the eldest Yakuza has secretly been a vampire for many years and passes the gift along to his successor. So, now it’s time for a vampire Yakuza war, which will lead to a supernatural arms race. A variety of nutty creatures join the gangland battle, from some sort of odd turtle/bird/man creature to a deadly felt mascot and a murderous child. Cue all sorts of fighting and violence.
‘Yakuza Apocalypse’ is an absolutely insane cinematic endeavor that lives up to its title. It’s a full-on sensory assault of colorful images, crazy violence, wacky characters and ridiculous plot twists. You can pretty much guarantee that you’ve seen nothing like this before, unless you made a mix tape of the weirdest scenes from previous Miike movies. This is a filmmaker who can somehow even make a sewing circle seem sinister and deadly. So he does, perhaps to prove a point that he can, or perhaps because that’s just the idea for a scene that happened to pop into his head that day.
You see, as fun as it is to giggle at the insanity of ‘Yakuza Apocalypse’ and count the number of times you exclaim “What the fuck?” over the course of two hours, the whole thing eventually becomes a little exhausting. The best insane movies tend to have some sort of grounding point before spiraling off into extremes, or they at least have a point to all of the absurdity. Not this movie. No, this just feels like Takashi Miike emptying out the notebook full of crazy ideas that he’s compiled over the last few years.
There’s no denying that the flick is fun to watch in a theater packed full of viewers in disbelief or amongst a group of like-minded friends interacting with the screen. The movie will certainly provoke some sort of reaction, if only in self-defense. However, it can’t be described as a particularly satisfying effort. Miike’s best movies have flow or subtext. ‘Yakuza Apocalypse’ is the result of the director committing to his ideas as loudly and wildly as possible without much or any concern for how they fit together. Over the course of two hours, the sense of fun will wear off for most viewers, especially if you’re sober at the time.