Yakuza Apocalypse  is Takashi Miike’s latest film. This is a picture that defies categorization: call it a gangster film, a vampire film, an action film, or a fantastical comedy… It all sort of works because this film is a bit of everything; and, it is silly as all hell. The Public Service Announcement here is: Strap in! It’s gonna be a romp through Crazytown. Yakuza Apocalypse follows zealous yakuza member Akira Kageyama as he deals with the proverbial shit that has hit the fan in his tiny town.
One Ticket to Crazytown… It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single director in possession of a unique story must be in want of creative freedom. However, for the sake of this analogy, let’s just say that if there is an instruction manual for Yakuza Apocalypse, its first rule would read: Place the tongue firmly into the cheek and leave it there indefinitely (or, you know, until the movie is done, dummy). Yakuza Apocalypse is a mixed bag of satire and homage. The images and the story are often absurd. Miike’s sense of humor is a little deranged so proceed with a light heart and you might find yourself guffawing at his flashy, high-concept jokes. Not all of this film’s jokes are flashy though; sometimes they’re just sprinkled in for flair: For instance, in one scene a character will chop at a car with an ax. In the next, when that car drives onscreen, it is shown to have been shoddily patched up with cardboard and duct tape. This, however, isn’t emphasized, so if noticed, it’s like a mini easter egg—if not, none the worse. (Also, sidenote: Miike may have found Asian Barry Goldberg—not the musician, but the spaz from The Goldbergs. Judge for yourself.)
Genre Bastard Child… Miike will implore you to not quibble over the semantics of his kitchen-sink film, which is at times enjoyable and at times taxing. What’s enjoyable are the surprises. Yakuza Apocalypse often plays around with our expectations of character behaviour and genre conventions. Sometimes, characters will begin fights staged like a Western face-off—and the music will match—but then they’ll come in for hand-to-hand combat like a Bruce Lee film. The sound design of these hand-to-hand combat scenes is highly stylized. Every punch sounds massive, which imbues the fight scenes with a cartoonish, larger-than-life quality—all of which is befitting of the tone of this film. Other times, Yakuza Apocalypse will borrow lines and silhouettes from German Expressionism and tap into elements of horror films, posing and lighting characters in the most ghoulish way possible. Yakuza mythos—such as extensive tattoos and high-octane violence—meets the fantastic and the result is that all caution is thrown to the wind. The gore-averse really need not apply. And last but not least, this film features a soundtrack that is frequently either cheeky or rousing, which edifies Miike’s mischievous mashup of genre conventions.
All the Things…What’s less enjoyable is the caveat of making a kitchen-sink film. There’s quite possibly too much going on in Yakuza Apocalypse. There’s a romantic subplot that could have been edited out entirely. The action is not the clearest and most confidently choreographed, but what it lacks in technical prowess, it makes up for in spirit and sheer brutality. Yet, there are so many fights that they start to lose impact over its nearly two-hour running time. The final face-off plays as both gratuitous and a bit homoerotic, which made it exhausting to watch: The third hit was comical; the tenth became excessive; which, brings to mind that sometimes, plain and simple: peeps be dumb. The bits and pieces of English dialogue—often expletives—come off as contrived and are laughably bad, demonstrating that there is indeed an incorrect way to use the word, “Fuck!”. The women are underserved. The characters are fairly two-dimensional. There’s a Kappa Goblin, which may fall flat for those unfamiliar with Kappa folklore. But of course, this is all to be expected. Yakuza Apocalypse makes no claim to be anything but a flamboyant mishmash of B-movie tropes brought to life with a healthy dose of DIY attitude. It’s not politically correct or high-brow satire, but it can be both fun and funny. Mostly, this is fairly mindless and energetic entertainment; and for mindless, energetic entertainment, you could do much worse than Yakuza Apocalypse.