Japanese director Takashi Miike has always been daring with his projects.  Ranging from the sublime (13 Assassins) to the twisted (Audition), he has never been afraid to tackle the weird and wonderful.  His latest project, a blend of yakuza, vampires and fantasy action, definitely falls in the former.

Yakuza Apocalypse follows head yakuza Kamiura (Lily Franky), who is secretly a vampire.  However, as he is assassinated by an English-speaking Japanese hunter and his sidekick (Yayan Ruhian), Kamiura bites his protege Kagayama (Hayato Ichihara), transforming him into a vampire.  Armed with his new powers, he gathers a new group of vampire ‘yakuza’ to avenge his boss.

For those new to Miike’s work, Yakuza Apocalypse falls into his trademark themes of yakuza and over-the-top, gory deaths.  Dismissing classic vampiric folklore for the majority of the film, Miike and screenwriter Yoshitaka Yamaguchi have gone in, no holds barred in terms of action and concept.  Unfortunately, this unrestrained approach has failed to form a complete coherent film.

The majority of the characters have no redeeming features or attributes to endear them to the audience.  Ruhian edges it slightly as he is, as always, impressive in the martial art scenes but several of the supporting characters are simply weird – there is a martial arts expert in a huge frog suit and a man with a beak for a mouth – but there is no explanation as to why and how these characters fit into the tale, besides contributing to lacklustre action sequences.  It feels like Ichihara is trying to make a similar impact to his co-stars, but is easily overshadowed and in some cases, forgotten.

Yamaguchi’s script occasionally fits in with the sinister, mysterious side of the yakuza, but like the majority of the film, it is overshadowed by the pure insanity of the plot and some of the film’s characters.

The fact that Miike is capable of making great films that do indeed shock only adds to the dissatisfaction, as this is just a film that is shocking but not great.

In short, Yakuza Apocalypse is too bizarre and too much of a mess to deem watchable.  Simply disappointing.

Director: Takashi Miike
Stars: Lily Franky, Hayato Ichihara, Yayan Ruhian
Runtime: 115 mins
Country: Japan

Film Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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