How does one approach reviewing a film like Yakuza Apocalypse? Directed by Takashi Miike and with a screenplay by Yoshitaka Yamaguchi, the film could be described as all-out manic madness, an assault not only on the senses but also on sense itself. Featuring vampires, cartoon sequences, fluffy costumed terrorists, exhaustive action sequences, Japanese school girls connected by a loose semblance of a plot, the film is perhaps best approached with a comically oversized, and by no means literal, stick – to fend off any bouts of reason, rationality or critical judgement that may attempt to encroach on your experience of it. Needless to say, the rating below only reflects the mood I was in when I watched the film, but overall it helps if you view it with a (wide) open mind.
But first, a brief outline of the ‘plot’. Genyō (Lily Franky) is the popular leader of the yakuza in a small town, where he practices a philosophy of not harming the local residents. He is also a vampire. However, someone from within his own ranks has betrayed him to neighbouring gangs, and after his head is literally ripped off with someone’s bare hands, his apprentice, Akira (Hayato Ichihara), is left to avenge his death – but not before Genyō’s severed head has bitten him and converted him into a vampire as well. The ‘plot’ becomes completely unhinged after that, with a steady flow of characters, plot twists and random asides that, with each new one, seems to stack on new layers of WTF confusion.
So again, how does one approach a film like Yakuza Apocalypse – which seems to resist inclinations towards ‘conventional’ critique with such earnest dedication and comic verve? Evaluating it based on its (illogical and disjointed) screenplay and its (uneven, thinly drawn, though admittedly committed) performances is probably missing the point. The film, and everyone involved, is so patently aware of how silly it is that serious critiques are practically pre-emptively deflected.
No, this film was made to be viscerally enjoyed: fight scenes which are slickly choreographed and violently entertaining, performances unswerving in their absurdity, and a cast of characters so random that trying to rationalize their backgrounds or motives is pointless. The fewer questions you ask, the better, and if anything, the plot could have descended into complete self-indulgence even earlier. Instead, beat back any temptation to analyse too deeply, and just allow the waves of hysterical, crazed incoherence to wash over you.
Yakuza Apocalypse screened at the 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival.