“Takashi Miike’s 257,962nd feature film (this year) received a Special Screening in the Directors’ Fortnight, which basically means that they couldn’t quite justify including it in the lineup proper but also couldn’t bear the thought of not showing it,” writes Mike D’Angelo at the Dissolve. “At first, it’s not clear why the movie isn’t called Yakuza Vampire Apocalypse, as the gloriously silly plot kicks off when a newly recruited gangster named Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara) discovers that his boss (Lily Franky, who also appeared in Kore-eda’s Our Little Sister earlier in the fest) feeds on the blood of other yakuza. Vampires, however, turn out to be the most mundane aspect of this batshit-crazy saga, which also features a guy with a turtle shell on his back and a duck’s bill for a mouth; a woman whose brains appear to be leaking out of her ears; a basement full of burly human sacrifices who are learning to knit while they wait for their turn; and a secret message that, when decoded, implores the hero to ‘STAY FOOLISH.'” Yakuza Apocalypse is “Miike at his most gleefully lunatic, and that’s always a hoot and a half.”
“This is primo Miike,” agrees the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin, “switched to Fun Mode: the same setting that produced the family-serial-killer musical The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) and the masterful post-Lynchian farmyard freak-out Gozu (2003); two inspired, genre-melting films that kept midnight movie crowds roaring until the early hours…. The demented brilliance of Miike’s film lies in the director’s ability to craft ideas that are simultaneously sublime and ridiculous: the martial arts battles, for example, are played for laughs, but Miike shoots the combat sequences from an over-the-shoulder angle that displays Ichihara and [Yayan] Ruhian’s extraordinary, coiled athleticism to the fullest.”
“For all its berserk energy, you will need a very particular sense of humor not to lose patience,” advises the Guardian‘s Andrew Pulver. “There were one or two mild giggles, to be sure, on the appearance of a much dreaded monster, the ‘world’s toughest terrorist,’ who turns out to be a man in a zip-up frog suit, Honey Monster-style; the frog strikes action poses before beating the hell out of anything that gets in its way. Hilarious. Well, this mess of a film will have its fans, but I can’t say that it will make much headway outside the Miike hardcore. A very acquired taste.”
“It may be a hugely tacky, cartoony balloon pit of a film, but when every single element is dialled up to eleven and you can’t go thirty seconds without another three-way face-off between OTT, OMG and WTF, it starts to achieve a maximalist artistry that almost feels avant-garde,” finds Jessica Kiang at the Playlist. “At 125 minutes, Yakuza Apocalypse is overlong—Miike could easily lose any random 20 minutes from the middle, and a) it would be much snappier and b) no one would notice…. This bucking bronco will be too much, too loud, too violent, too messy, too dumb for some, but I’m proud to be dumb enough to have enjoyed the hell out of feeling five years old again, as if nothing that can be imagined cannot come true.”
Updates, 5/24: “Unable to attend the screening of Yakuza Apocalypse, Takashi Miike instead sends a video introduction performed in full geisha drag,” reports Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club. “Twirling an oil paper umbrella, he explains that he has retired from directing ‘violent films’ to work at a teahouse in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. God bless this man…. Though his approach skews more classical now—the bizarre long takes that once characterized his work mostly gone—Miike remains the foremost composer of the off-beat midnight movie. He builds out-there elements one on top of the other, to the point that the movie seems on the verge of toppling once the climax—volcanoes, kaiju, a tricked-out big rig, a mysterious killer in a frog mascot costume—hits fever-pitch. There isn’t a dull moment here.”
More from Lee Marshall (Screen) and David Rooney (Hollywood Reporter).
Update, 5/28: For Variety‘s Maggie Lee, this is “a lazily executed dud padded out with infantile pranks, shambolic plot turns and knockabout action. Recalling the kitschy Sushi Typhoon series churned out by the pic’s distributor Nikkatsu, only boasting higher production values, it’s instant ramen for fanboys at rowdy midnight fest sidebars, but Sukiyaki Western Django this isn’t.”
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