YAKUZA APOCALYPSE Ah! Fine cinema!

I wouldn’t describe Takashi Miike as having a style so much as a series of hostage demands inked in blood. Despite a career in Japan that includes boy band vehicles and an Ace Attorney adaptation, in terms of export, he’s Japan’s premier purveyor of fucked-up shit. From conventional, hyper-violent samurai slice-’em-ups like 13 Assassins to notorious crime/horror hybrids like Ichi the Killer, Western audiences primarily know Miike’s films as cinematic torture tests. It’s not a question of who’s getting dismembered, it’s a question of how many limbs.

Yakuza Apocaylpse isn’t as punishing as those earlier films, but it’s also not a walk in the park in terms of graphic violence (and a brief depiction of sexual assault). Ostensibly an urban fantasy gangster parable about yakuza mentorship, Apocalypse opens with vampire mob boss Kamiura (Lily Frankie) cutting down a dozen goons with a sword while being ineffectually riddled with bullets. It’s a banger of an opening scene, but the film soon reveals sensibilities closer to a spoof than a straightforward genre outing. This isn’t Goodfellas by way of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s Jane Austen’s Mafia by way of Dracula: Dead and Loving It.

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That might be a small distinction, since the film still features plenty of the back-alley brawls and honorable pathos that yakuza films are known for. What might get lost in translation is how broadly Miike plays those beats, and how familiar he expects you to be with the tropes he’s goofing on. As with a lot of parody, your mileage will vary even before you get into culture clash and translated wordplay.

And then a guy in a giant frog suit shows up and starts kicking the ever-loving shit out of everyone. I don’t know how to contextualize that. It’s just a thing that happens in Yakuza Apocalypse, and everyone watching will just have to deal with it.