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  Yakuza Apocalypse Frog Spawns Armageddon
Year: 2015
Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Yayan Ruhian, Lily Frankie, Hayato Ichihara, Denden, Mio Yûki, Riko Narumi, Reiko Takashima, Masanori Mimoto, Tetsu Watanabe, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Pierre Taki, Ryushin Tei, Shô Aoyagi, Makoto Sakaguchi, Manzô Shinra
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Martial Arts, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is a gangster boss in the city by the name of Kamiura (Lily Frankie) who is rumoured to have powers beyond the usual influence such underworld figures enjoy. Indeed, he has broken away from the main yakuza group to set out on his own, a more benevolent and protective individual than the rivals he took this province away from, and the manner in which he did that was supposedly by staging his own one-man assault on the previous boss's entourage that saw him cutting down his henchmen with a samurai sword until, after getting shot and stabbed multiple times, he got close enough to his target to sink his teeth into the victim's neck. That's right, Kamiura is no ordinary yakuza - he's a vampire!

If the thought of crossing the gangster genre with the vampire genre puts certain images in your mind, something menacing and moody, not to mention bloody, then you’d have that last part correct but with Takashi Miike on directing duties you wouldn't be on the right track with the first part. He was well known for his idiosyncratic approach to his efforts, sometimes more palatable for many potential audiences than others, but with Yakuza Apocalypse, a title that in a roundabout way this managed to live up to, he was really pushing the boundaries of what most people would be able to tolerate. Was this Miike at his most purely unfettered, or was he just far too self-indulgent for his own good?

That was going to be very much a question of taste, but be warned, the director was making no concessions here as he spun a yarn that included all sorts of business you could not envisage any other director having quite the guts to deliver with such dedication. One side effect of that was his pacing was curiously off, as if so determined to wrongfoot anyone but the most loyal fan that the plot juddered along barely getting out of first gear when the events it portrayed really demanded something more kinetic and exuberant to sell the oddities. Take the captured gang bosses who are being rehabilitated to re-enter society as honest citizens: by learning to knit and having their bare feet stamped on until they did what they were told.

This was stuffed with nonsense such as that, and while it was welcome to an extent, you did wish Miike had had the courage of his convictions in depicting criminals as vampires preying on the law-abiding and done more with that theme rather than spiralling off in seemingly random directions. One of those directions took up most of the second half of the movie where the yakuza under threat called in the worst terrorist in the world (or something) which turned out to be a bloke in a baggy, green frog costume who is a demon at martial arts. Before that we had Kamiura vanquished Van Helsing-style by the power of Christianity from a priest carrying a small coffin on his back whose right hand man (The Raid movies' Yayan Ruhian) tore him limb from limb then twisted off his head for good measure.

However, you can't keep a good, er, vampire down, and the power of positive thinking will endure, so when Kamiura's noggin is picked up by the aghast underling who looked up to him, Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara), its mouth plants itself on his neck and turns him too - we can tell this is happening because the word "Suck" appears in Japanese writing on the victims' foreheads. Before long it's an epidemic of the townsfolk biting the jugulars of the ordinary people who now stand up to the bewildered yakuza, hence obviously they seek advice from a fish-stinking kappa (water spirit), just in case you thought this wasn't Japanese enough. Even after all those bizarre scenes, including a bullied boy who when he is turned develops a perm, fixed scowl and mad axe skills, it would be Kageyama's battle against the frog man that you'd remember thanks to there being no possible explanation for it that made any kind of sense other than, well, it's Miike, you go along with it. With the titular apocalypse signalled by earthquakes and an erupting volcano, we were not even offered a satisfying conclusion, the director reluctant end things at all. Music by Kôji Endô.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Takashi Miike  (1960 - )

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.

His best best known pictures are the deeply twisted love story Audition, the blackly comic gorefest Ichi the Killer, cannibal comedy musical Happiness of the Katakuris and the often surreal Dead or Alive trilogy. Films such as The Bird People in China and Sabu showed a more restrained side. With later works such as samurai epic 13 Assassins and musical For Love's Sake he showed no signs of slowing down, reaching his hundredth movie Blade of the Immortal in 2017. A true original, Miike remains one of the most exciting directors around.

 
Review Comments (1)
Posted by:
Andrew Pragasam
Date:
8 Jun 2016
  I have always maintained Miike's anarchic tendencies come off better in his children's films than more lauded adult work.
       


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