“Yakuza Apocalypse” opens this Friday at The Film Bar in Phoenix, which is the perfect venue for this type of movie.
Japanese Director, Takashi Miike, has produced over 100 films in his highly prolific career. Many of them are quite memorable, such as the disturbing yet brilliant “Audition” or his unsettling “Box” segment in “Three… Extremes.” Given his track record and the allure of a Vampiric Yakuza movie, “Yakuza Apocalypse” promised to excite. There was also the tease of an ass-kicking frog in the final seconds of the trailer! In the press release for this film Takashi is quoted as saying “Against everyone’s wishes, I’m going back to my roots on this one, and plan to go on a real rampage.” Perhaps he should have listened to everyone…
The plot starts out simple enough. A fearsome, yet highly protective, yakuza boss is murdered. Only then is it revealed that he was a vampire, which suddenly explains how he has survived numerous prior attempts on his life. After losing his head, he is still able to turn his Lieutenant, Kagayama, (Hayato Ichihara) into an immortal with the hopes of vengeance. Unfortunately, Kagayama is unable to repress his newfound hunger and unknowingly begins turning the locals into fellow vampires. It’s at this point the film jumps the rails. It quickly becomes unclear who is on whom’s side, what the various characters’ motivations are, what that smelly goblin is doing in the film, and what the weird milky stuff coming out of the girl’s head is. Then there is the Frog-guy,also known as the world’s greatest terrorist.
Frankly, the frog-guy is pretty awesome. It’s silly, fun, and he kicks sufficient amounts of ass. But eventually even that gag wears thin and drowns under the torrents of WTF drenching this movie. Sure, there are moments that are likely lost in translation, but never has cultural miscommunication reached such a massive level. There’s some subtext about how the yakuza cannot survive without the very civilians they “feed” off from, but given the tone of the movie, no one would ever take it seriously.
So why does this film still deserve a 3 star rating? Each film can only be judged against its own genre, and there’s not much else that comes close to “Yakuza Apocalypse.” It’s certainly not a boring film, which is the worst offense any movie can make. Amongst all the insanity there are still flashes of brilliance and creative abandon. That’s certainly worth something, especially if you are knocking back a few brews with friends at your local Film Bar.