Film Review – Yakuza Apocalypse
Normally when I review a film, it’s pretty easy to give a simple, no-spoiler synopsis of the plot. Most movies make some kind of sense, and if weird things happen, they are pretty much explainable within the context of the story. Not so much with Takashi Miike’s new film Yakuza Apocalypse. I’m going to tell you what I think this film is about, but I can’t guarantee that’s actually what’s going on in it. I’m just giving you my interpretation of events, and I may have completely misunderstood everything. Anyway, the film I saw was pretty fun, so I think I’m recommending it.
Genyo Kamiura (Lily Frankie) is the beloved boss of the local yakuza gang. Townspeople revere him for his ability to fix any situation, and gang members worship him for his toughness and seeming invincibility. He’s got his area under control, and everything runs like clockwork. Turns out though, not all is what it seems. Kamiura is so damn unkillable because he is really a yakuza vampire, and instead of feeding on the townspeople, he has a supply of yakuza prisoners hidden underneath a local restaurant. (Where they receive knitting lessons.) No one but the restaurant guy knows about any of this, but Kamiura drops a few hints to his favorite henchman Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara), who doesn’t really pick up on anything until two strangers come to town: a black-clad oddly-dressed fellow with a tiny coffin on his back, and the world’s dorkiest tourist (Yayan Ruhian from The Raid).
Turns out, they are from some vampire group (I think) and they want Kamiura to come back with them. He resists, and they kill him in front of Kageyama, who inadvertently finds out who gave the vampire dudes inside information. Kageyama is shot and left for dead and, but he’s really not, and then Kamiura’s severed head comes to life and bites him a lot. Kageyama then becomes a yakuza vampire and turns a whole lot of other people into yakuza vampires, and they all want revenge on the people who betrayed Kamiura. (This seems kind of spoilery, but it’s the setup for the film.) And then there is this weird, stinky demon with a beak that might be in league with the vampires that killed Kamiura. And then they bring in the Modern Monster who is a dude dressed in a frog mascot furry outfit, and he is totally badass and can crazy fight and has hypno-toad-like powers. There is also some kind of apocalypse going on, but I’m not really sure how that ties into anything although it is important to the last third of the film. But don’t ask me how.
At a certain point in the film, I gave up trying to figure out what was going on and just kind of relaxed and enjoyed what was happening in front of me. If you are the kind of person who really needs everything to make sense, then this is maybe not the film for you. There is lots of violence – martial artsy, vampire sucking, and dudes being all testosteroney and stuff – so it’s not for the timid. The final fight scene is crazy hilarious, but it, and most of the action, is of the bone-crushing variety. It’s also kind of gross: there is this weird stuff that keeps shooting out of the yakuza captain’s ears and getting all over everyone. It’s also kind of a dude movie. There is one female henchperson (the captain), but the few other women in the film are mostly damsels in distress until they get turned into yakuza vampires. I would like to see better female characters in my batshit crazy Japanese yakuza vampire films, but I’m not really holding my breath. The vampires here are a little different than what we are used to. They can walk around in sunlight, have some creepy mouth protuberance to suck blood with, and create other vampires immediately. Decapitation still works though.
I don’t know if there is a point to this film, but if there is a message, it’s that the yakuza are living off the blood of the townspeople just as much as the vampires are. Both groups need civilians to pay them in blood or money. Once the town starts turning, the yakuza are at a loss for how they are going to make enough in protection money to keep on going. Also, the apocalypse could be bad. Not really sure. Yeah, I thought this was a lot of fun, but it’s not going to be for everyone. If you are feeling adventurous, or you already like Takashi Miike, then you should give this film a chance.