Movie Reviews

Review: “Yakuza Apocalypse” is Dumb Miike for Dummies

Director: Takashi Miike Starring: Lily Frankie, Hayato Ichihara, Yayan Ruhian

Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Lily Frankie, Hayato Ichihara, Yayan Ruhian

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Synopsis: In the ruthless underground world of the yakuza, no one is more legendary than boss Kamiura. Rumored to be invincible, the truth is he is a vampire-a bloodsucking yakuza vampire boss! Among Kamiura’s gang is Kageyama, his most loyal underling. One day, assassins aware of boss Kamiura’s secret arrive from abroad and deliver him an ultimatum: Return to the international syndicate he left years ago, or die.With his dying breath, Kamiura bites Kageyama, passing on his vampire powers to the unsuspecting yakuza. 

 

Yakuza Apocalypse is an easy film to watch, because it is clear that no one had any intention of it being worth your time. For the lazy moviegoer—one who pays more attention to distributing M&M’s into each handful of popcorn than to the big screen—this is the perfect concession-stand movie. Go to the bathroom. Grab a refill on the large cola. Never fear, because, not only will you not understand what is going on, you won’t really care. Miike’s vampire flick isn’t up to snuff, but it’s not so far under snuff to be a total disappointment.

 

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Vampire flicks don’t usually devolve into such chaos But Yakuza Apocalypse doesn’t know if it wants to go Dracula on us, or Violent Cop, or all out Power Rangers. It mushes it all together, replacing the classic vampirism of Dracula for a sexier bloodsucker. This movie pours out onto the screen as a confused mess of comedy, gangster, horror, and goofy infantilism. It works in places by the sheer tenacity of Miike’s talent, and falters in others, because it stinks.

A benevolent yakuza crime boss, Kamiura (Lily Frankie), doubles as a vampire. The people love him, likely because he refrains from biting them. His gang respects him, but they don’t his young protégé, Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara). Kageyama is ridiculed for his sensitive skin, which is his excuse for refusing the elaborate back tat customary among yakuza. Kageyama ends up getting one, in a roundabout way. The decapitated head of Kamiura, severed by members of an old crime syndicate with sore feelings from the old days, bites Kageyama, turning him into a vampire. Magically a back tattoo appears, and less magically, this movie nosedives.

Trailer-Yakuza-Apocalypse-Frog-Man

Kageyama bites “civvies” (yakuza speak for “civilians”), growing an army of vampires to fight against Kamiura’s killers—a group of Japanese “Monster Mash” background dancers. A mutant turtle man with a duckbill for a mouth and an oversized stuff animal of a frog are major forces within this group of misfits. This is the stuff of canceled Saturday morning cartoons, right down to the mutant turtle man stinking up the joint, a repulsive odor emitting from somewhere on his person. The gangs run together, an unsexy romance plays out between Kageyama and a woman during her stay inn a hospital, and I checked out somewhere after white goo starting shooting out of a female yakuza boss’ head. In a psychedelic, bong rip kind of way, Yakuza Apocalypse holds your attention. Giant frogs, bizarre anime-like sequences, and plenty of blood (it’s vampires and Miike—to quote There Will Be Blood, there will be blood) makes for a mind warp of a movie, no matter the level of narrative, or lack of craftsmanship.

There’s a golden pall of light in the lighting scheme for much of Yakuza Apocalypse, and it’s a legitimately bad decision. It has no place in the movie, no symbolic purpose, doesn’t help the mood, and just seems to be there. Whatever you want to say about the giddy fun Miike is having, it’s this decision, and this decision alone, that made me write Yakuza Apocalypse off. It gets nitpicky in this movie critic game.

Yakuza Apocalypse fares worse when you consider Miike’s better films. It doesn’t display Miike’s touch for the macabre, nor his dark imagination, and his masterful control of pace. Despite only seeing two of his films, Audition and Visitor Q, I consider myself a Miike completist. I just need to catch up on his other ninety-six films. But 13 Assassins sounds awesome. I am dying to see how his remake of Harakiri stacks up to Kobayashi’s 1962 original. Ichii The Killer, Gozu, Detective Story, and Dead or Alive are hiding somewhere in my Amazon wish list. But Miike’s style is so distinct, if you’ve seen any of his work, then you will likely feel a kinship to the kooky director’s flare. Unfortunately, Yakuza Apocalypse is a so-so introduction to Miike, a lazy and disappointing entry for fans of the filmmaker, and a really easy, silly, fun movie to watch. Like Natalie Imbruglia famously sang, I’m torn.

 

  • Acting - 7/10
    7/10
  • Cinematography - 3/10
    3/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 4/10
    4/10
  • Setting/Theme - 6/10
    6/10
  • Buyability - 5/10
    5/10
  • Recyclability - 4/10
    4/10
Overall
4.8/10
4.8/10
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