Yakuza bosses are holding a meeting in a cafe to work out what to do with Ozaki (Sho Aikawa), one of their number who has gone insane. While the main boss is talking with him, Ozaki stops him and tells him everything he says from now on is a joke, then moves to the main area of the cafe and conspiratorially informs the boss that the tiny dog outside the window is in fact a Yakuza attack dog, trained to kill Yakuza. The boss is sceptical, but looks on in horror as Ozaki rushes out, grabs the dog from his owners and flings it around until it dies. This man is obviously a liability, so plans are drawn and the next day low ranking gangster Minami (Hideki Sone) is driving Ozaki to a Yakuza disposal site, where he will be executed. Well, that's what he thinks will happen...
...but as this is a film directed by Japan's master of the outre, Takashi Miike, and written by the man who scripted Ichi the Killer for him, Sakichi Satô, you can safely predict that the paln will not run smoothly. Even Miike's fans were baffled by this one: is it a comedy? A horror film? A thriller? What exactly is the point? You can take your pick from a variety of interpretations. And after almost two hours of its main character wandering about in an increasingly exasperating bout of aimlessness, the finale is, I suppose, worth waiting for in a "Well, I didn't expect to see that" manner, but boredom is not a valuable sensation for Yakuza movies, including ones which dive straight into the world of the weird.
At first, you could have mistaken Gozu for the more conventional Yakuza drama, even if the opening scene is unusual (the doomed little dog is obviously a stuffed toy). Once in the car with Ozaki, we discover that Minami has a special bond with him as he respectfully calls him "Brother" and is guilty about having to drive him to his execution site. However, halfway there he orders Minami to suddenly stop the car and get out; they do so and hide behind it as Ozaki draws his gun, announcing that the car whose path they are blocking is a Yakuza attack car that kills Yakuza. Steeling himself, Ozaki marches over to the surprised middle aged woman behind the wheel and prepares to shoot, but Minami knocks him to the ground and into unconsciousness. And he doesn't wake up, either.
Now in the town where the Yakuza disposal site is, Minami goes to find a telephone that works since he can't get a signal on his mobile phone, venturing into a coffee bar run by a tubby man whose bra can be seen through his blouse (played by the writer in his other job as an actor). They offer him free digusting custard along with his coffee, and after throwing up, Minami retreats back outside to see, oh dear, the body of Ozaki has gone. So far so intriguing, but what follows is an interminable amount of messing about as the hero tries to relocate the body so as to have something to show his superiors. It doesn't matter how many Minotaurs, flattened corpses or lactating landladies are presented (the latter in a subplot apparently designed to put you off milk for life), when there seems no rhyme or reason for any of it the meandering plot can't help but grow tiresome. Suffice to say, there are compensations, for instance a death sequence you'll never see replicated anywhere else such is its absurdity, and the punchline to all this is a rebirth that doesn't explain anything but, like the rest of the film, at least provides disbelieving laughter. Music by Kôji Endô.
Japan’s most controversial director, notorious for his dauntingly prolific output and willingness to push the boundaries of taste. Miike started working as an assistant director in the late 80s, before moving into making straight-to-video thrillers in 1991. He made his feature debut in 1995 with the violent cop thriller Shinjuku Triad Society, and since then has averaged around seven films year.