The ludicrously prolific Takashi Miike (as I write this, IMDB lists 99 credits as director since his debut in 1991) seems to work in different modes. There’s the high-end classy work he did for Jeremy Thomas (13 Assassins, Hara Kiri ); there are the extraordinary cult films he made his name with in the West (Audition, Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer); and there are a whole lot of other films he seems to have tossed of in short order that work on a ‘throw it against the wall and see if it’ll stick’ principle. Yakuza Apocalypse is very much a third mode film.
‘Unkillable’ yakuza boss Kamiura is in fact a vampire, who manages to infect loyal underling Kageyama with his condition after being decapitated by assassins. Kageyama in turn infects some of the common populace and soon the world is out of whack: if everyone is a yakuza vampire, then where do Kamiura’s old gang get their status from? Soon a Kappa demon turns up and the conviction grows that some kind of apocalypse is in the offing. A female yakuza has steaming milk issuing from her ears, with which she tries to cultivate a new crop of ‘decent civilians’. The end of days arrives in the shape of a frog-headed martial arts master who looks like a sports team mascot with a bulging hypnotic eyeball. A Kageyama/Frog smackdown ensues. The world ends.
Trying to describe the plot of this effort is a thankless task. There’s stuff in here from spaghetti Westerns and Road Runner cartoons. There’s a lot of informative and/or baffling dialogue (‘Yakuza blood tastes bad and has no nutrition’). There are nice ideas that go nowhere, and wacky bits of business that occasionally pay off (love that frog). There’s an almost philosophical thread about what defines a yakuza. (Kageyama’s skin is too sensitive to allow for the requisite tattoos, the dearth of ‘decent civilians’ makes the old gang question their place in the world.) But much of this gets forgotten as the chaos mounts. It’s not boring, but it is frustrating, all a bit scrappy and makeshift and half-baked. There are the desired moments of weirdness that Miike fans would expect, but here they just don’t add up to much. Ah well, there’ll be another one along any minute…
Watch the trailer: