Relentlessly bloody, stupidly long and laugh-out-loud funny, “Yakuza Apocalypse” is as good an introduction as any to the warped samurai sword stylings of Takashi Miike.
He is Japan’s Tarantino, a gonzo genre specialist who mashes up yakuza (gangster), swordfighting and supernatural horror cinema into something unique and oh-so-Japanese.
“Apocalypse” has tattooed, sword-swinging gangsters, wacko gory visual effects and all manner of slicing/hacking squishy sound effects, gang molls in sailorboy schoolgirl outfits, rape, and cops who only work when bribed.
And that’s not even getting to the vampires vomiting up tadpoles and “monster” martial artist who shows up in a plush theme-park frog suit and proceeds to kick yakuza and take names.
There’s this old-school yakuza boss (Lily Franky, yeah that’s his name) who lives by a code. Fists and swords are preferable to guns, “I won’t touch civilians” in gang wars, and he won’t join “the syndicate.”
That’s why this assassin confronts him. The killer is dressed as a Japanese Old West interpretation — in black hat, cowboy boots, spurs, and wearing a coffin as a backpack — of a Spanish Inquisitor (No one EVER expects the Spanish Inquisition!). The Inquisitor confronts him and distracts him as a henchman kills him.
But with his dying breath, Kamiura (Franky) passes on his wish, and his secret to a green but trusted protege (Hayato Ichihara). Avenge me, he suggests, as he bites Kageyama in the next. Become “a yakuza vampire!”
Things go utterly mad from here on out as Miike (“One Missed Call, and “13 Assassins” are his most famous titles in America) hurls blood and archetypes at the screen while yakuza try to figure out how to stop this unstoppable and seemingly unkillable foe.
The laughs are big and broad — mainly coming from the loony characters Miike throws at us. But there are scenes with real, um, bite, too. He lets the camera linger on Kageyama as the new vampire holds a gun in his mouth, weighing which fate would be worse.
It’s all close to incomprehensible, and a lot sillier than most Miike films you run across. And there just isn’t enough story to sustain the long waits between epic brawls, and that finale with the guy in the big frog suit.
Cast: Hayato Ichihara, Yayan Ruhian,
Running time: 1:55