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Monday, October 5, 2015

Beyond Fest 2015:Yakuza Apocalypse Review: Vampires and Yakuza Don't Mix

Back from the beyond, Beyond Fest had a slow start for Yakuza Apocalypse from Takashi Miike. Co-presented by the Japan Film Society, who had their recent LA EigaFest last weekend, the film was better off not being part of that festival. Sadly, it was part of this one. I am voicing an opinion different than the night's West Coast premiere audience that cheered and laughed for a man in a frog suit showing off martial arts skills. I cheered with them as my brain turned to mush, much like one of the cast in the film. Going in I knew their would be problems, Miike movies can just be good or bad for my taste. He' so prolific in Japan, I think he averages five films a year, you can tell when one film suffers because of the lack of time. Yakuza Apocalypse is one of those films, though with friends and just being a clip show it would make it watchable.

Starting late -do any film festivals in LA start on time-we entered into a strange horror movie/drama/martial arts film. A strange room, where strong Yakuza men were forced to knit was presented before us. Why we're they knitting, why we're they enduring pain to be good? That's the sense of humor of the movie. Weird, weird and being absurd with no pay-off.

We soon follow Akira Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara) an up-and-coming Yakuza who follows his boss around like a loyal puppy. His boss gets wacked by weirdos and even though missing major organs bites Kageyama turning him into a vampire. Now Kageyama has a taste for blood and when he bites you, you don't just turn into a vampire, but also a Yakuza. Kageyama then must go on a quest for a revenge for his former boss' murder. At the same time, the real Yakuza that betrayed the boss can't handle all the regular townsfolk becoming Yakuza. Vampire Yakuza don't eat regular Yakuza, they taste bad to them. Civilians taste better. Civilians, you can't just have one.

Add to the mix the group behind Kagema's boss' death. One of them is frog suit wearing weirdo, Kuru-Kun. This terrorist, Kuru-Kun gets the most novelty as seeing a man in a frog costume beat the crap out of people with martial art skills is a sight you don't want to look away from. He has a mighty hypno stare to break opponents too. His eye bulge out, blood-shot. The audience and I yelled the most when he came on screen to kick-butt. You'll want to find out whose behind the mask, don't have high expectations.

Getting to the end of the film, if you can call it that, has wave after wave of problems and if you've seen Takashi's films before you might be prepared. There are unresolved issues, I wanted to know why a Yakuza captain's brain was turning to mush, no answer. Messed-up alliances and revenge, people teamed-up or attacked each other for unresolved reasons. You have to take it as just being stupid, what you don't have to take is why the film is over two hours!

Hayato Ichihara and much of the cast do a great job, it's just their skills are just so underutilized for this film. I'd like to see any of them again in a pure drama or action film. Yayan Ruhian, a martial arts master is wasted, sure he has a few fight scenes. The end battle he's in is just a waste of his talent.

Yakuza Apocalypse has its dumb moments. It just doesn't have any reason to watch all those dumb moments together as a film. Clips on YouTube, memes online. Suck this film of its funny moments and leave it out to dry. Please don't wear a frog suit for Halloween. Yakuza vampire costumes still acceptable.

Yakuza Apocalypse is out on VOD and in select theaters Oct 9.