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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 06.01.15] Japan action cult thriller martial arts avant-garde

If there's one director that never ceases to amaze me it's Takashi Miike. And while I might not always be convinced, or thrilled by everything he's done, a few misses are to be expected given his Stakhanovite like output. Ninety-eight productions under his belt - an average of two films per year - where the standard is around a film every five or six. However, even being the avid fan I am, I've seen nowhere near half of them. That being said, let's talk about his latest before a new one gets in the way.

Here's what the little press brochure says:
"In the ruthless underground world of the yakuza, no one is more legendary than boss Kamiura. Rumored to be invincible, the truth is he is a vampire-a bloodsucking yakuza vampire boss! Among Kamiura's gang is Kageyama, his most loyal underling. However, the others in the gang view Kageyama with disdain and ridicule him for his inability to get tattooed due to sensitive skin.

One day, assassins aware of boss Kamiura's secret arrive from abroad and deliver him an ultimatum: Return to the international syndicate he left years ago, or die. Kamiura refuses and, during a fierce battle with anime-otaku martial-arts expert Kyoken, is torn limb from limb. With his dying breath, Kamiura bites Kageyama, passing on his vampire powers to the unsuspecting yakuza.

As he begins to awaken to his newfound abilities, Kageyama's desire to avenge the murder of boss Kamiura sets him on a course for a violent confrontation with Kaeru-kun, the foreign syndicate's mysterious and seemingly unstoppable leader!"

I do admit, reading it like that, flat on page, sounds extremely stupid. And it actually is. The whole lot, but it's not the kind of spectacle where these considerations matter. Where it gets really interesting is that this is only the base canvas upon which many things will pile upon, adding nonsense to absurdity while still maintaining a certain kind of logic. A drunken one, but logic nonetheless.

It really makes one wonder about the brainstorming sessions. I'm leaning on a combination of Dadaist "pick up words at random in the dictionary" and actual heavy drinking. Yet, despite the whole twisted fairy tale emerging quite rapidly in the settings, the whole manages to still be a Yakuza movie with all the tropes of the genre. And the maestria of Miike is to perfectly blend everything into something that's new, interesting and will surprise you.

As most of the thrill and value of this kind of exercise is in said surprise, I'll try not to get too specific. A few points of interest are worth mentioning though. First of all, the the Yakuza-Vampire is quite the concept, a bit like a Werewolf. There's no need to be a Yakuza first, once bitten you'll get both vampire abilities and Yakuza tattoos in one go. Cranking up the delirium tremens, the nemesis, Kaeru-kun, is a guy in an amusement park frog costume. Green plush with an over-sized tennis ball for a head. Actually seeing this improbable outfit beat endless opposition into a mushy pulp was the most joyful rendering of ultra-violence I have had the pleasure to witness in a long, long time.

Having sat through hours of desperation and social commentary in two weeks of the festival, Yakuza Apocalypse ends up being the most fun, joyful and cheer inducing movie of them all.

If you're looking for some good-natured extreme-violence with added yokai bits of folklore look no further.

Recommended Release: 13 Assassins

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