Wednesday, November 11, 2015

極道大戦争 (Yakuza Apocalypse) (2015)

Director: Takashi Miike
Writer:    Yoshitaka Yamaguchi
Cast:       Yayan Ruhian, Riri Furanki, Hayato Ichihara
Language: Japanese

In the ruthless 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! When he is assassinated by an International syndicate, he just manages to pass on his vampire traits to a young Yakuza, Kagayama, whom he had taken under his wings. As Kagayama struggles to come to terms with his new-found abilities, things go out of hand as more and more civilians are converted to vampires and the Yakuza start facing an existential crisis due to lack of civilians. If that is not crazy enough for you, enter the super-villain teletubby, which can make earth-quakes happen.

In Hollywood, it is common to have a genre getting revived all of a sudden and it becoming a sort of fad. This is exactly what happened to the vampire genre, which came after the Zombie fad. Most of these films turn out to be trite but you do get interesting films that can be considered as genre-benders when the fad is kind of fading. That happened to the Vampire genre with three great ones coming out in succession last year- Only Lovers Left Alive, What We Do in the Shadows and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. When you were just thinking the genre is kind of dead on its feet, here comes Takashi Miike with a film that mixes vampire genre with yakuza and an apocalypse. Just that he doesn't adhere to the vampire rules like not being able to handle the sun and things like that.

Generally Miike kind of go for very violent difficult to watch first halves which then transforms into comedies during the second half. This one is comedic from the get go and there aren't that many stomach-churningly violent scenes. Don't know whether it is a case of me being desensitized to it. The film is mad as hell, just read the synopsis to get an idea, and I interpreted the English speaking syndicate and the teletubby character as Miike making fun of juvenile Hollywood crap dominating Japanese box office. There is even a Darth Vader aspect to that character and the ending fist fight scene at the climax is also poking fun at Hollywood action films which generally go for over the top destructive explosions while filming action sequences, Man of Steel for eg. It is not really a fist fight, but just two guys finding out who can survive when they are just punching the other's face in a round robin basis. That is just as anit-climactic that you can possibly get. 

Overall, it is a great watch but might not be suitable for everyone. If you are familiar with Miike's work, you might be taken aback by its relative light-naturedness. I generally find his films to be in the very good category without being great but the genre films that he is churning out lately have been quite great. But I do think it is an acquired taste and you should be familiar with his work to enjoy the humor in Yakuza Apocalypse. 

Rating: 4/5