Gangsters, vampires, martial arts, and the end of the world all combine in this week’s DVD release, the sublimely chaotic Yakuza Apocalypse.
The movie takes us to the streets of a Japanese neighbourhood which is under the control of a benevolent Yakuza boss with a secret. This gangster is a vampire, ruling the underworld with his supernatural powers.
When a strange group of assassins turn up and take out the boss he passes his vampire gift on to his thoughtful underling Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara). It’s the trigger for an increasingly bizarre sequence of events.
Kageyama and an ever-expanding undead army take on a range of dangerous opponents from a shady rival organization, including a lethal nerd and a killer terrorist dressed up as a giant frog. It isn’t long until the neighbourhood is in a state of chaos.
The film is the latest from director Takashi Miike, one of the most distinctive filmmakers in Japanese cinema and a master of manic, over-the-top action. He’s outdone himself with this one, splicing genres in a stylishly frenzied mash-up.
What’s going on half the time? Who knows! Trying to figure out why anything is happening feels like a fool’s errand. The whole thing is pandemonium stuffed with eminently strange characters and inexplicable events. The ending section in particular is a ludicrously outlandish head-scratcher.
All these weird and wonderful events are driven along by a relentlessly manic energy. At its best this provides superbly inventive moments and exciting battles, but some of the sequences in the film are overlong.
Maybe the film says something about the viral and predatory nature of criminal organisations. Or maybe it says something about the effect of modern capitalism on traditional communities. It’s hard to say evaluate such depth when you’re watching a man dressed as a frog take down enemies with a baseball bat.
One thing that’s for sure is Yakuza Apocalypse is like nothing else you’ll see this year. Sit back and enjoy.