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terça-feira, 5 de janeiro de 2016
Yakuza Apocalypse review: 'demented brilliance'
Takashi Miike's martial arts extravaganza is foolish, transgressive, and just about the best fun you can have in a cinema
If the thought of two months of Oscar and Bafta-baiting cinemamakes you bilious, here is a film that stands as much chance of winning one of those awards as it does an Olympic gold in show jumping – though it is, in its own preposterous way, a work of sharp and singular genius.
Yakuza Apocalypse is, at the time of writing, the latest film from the cult Japanese director Takashi Miike – although it’s entirely possible that by the time you read this, he’ll have polished off another. In the last five years, Miike has made 11 films, although by his standards, that’s relatively restrained: between 2001 and 2005, he managed 28.
His body of work is as overstuffed as it is wildly uneven, though the good ones tend to pop up in the UK eventually. Of his recent films, the best are 13 Assassins and Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai – two handsome, classically wrought samurai dramas that are worlds apart from Audition, the extreme J-horror that first endeared him to western audiences in the late Nineties, but each has an unmistakeable sprinkling of Miike mischief.
This latest film sees Miike switched back to Fun Mode: the same setting that produced the family serial-killer musical The Happiness of the Katakuris and the hallucinatory Gozu during that absurdly busy early 2000s patch. Miike stirs everything into the mix: slapstick, satire, body horror, stop-motion animation, even Showa-era giant monster carnage.
It begins as a sly, fantastical skit on the financial downturn. Kamiura (Lily Franky), a mob boss running an extortion racket in a drab provincial town, is revealed to be a vampire, draining the local population of their plasma and thereby turning more and more formerly productive citizens into soulless bloodsuckers.
But then, a foreign cartel rolls into town, consisting of an English-speaking witch-hunter with a Django-like coffin on his back, an ultra-violent anime nerd (Yayan Ruhian, from The Raid films) and a kappa water-demon with terrible personal hygiene. Kamiura defends his turf, but doesn’t come out of the confrontation well, and on his deathbed, he bites the neck of his protege, Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara), so he can continue to carry out the clan’s vampiric work.
After that, all bets are off. The cartel summons a creature who’s described as “the modern monster” and “the world’s toughest terrorist” – a man in a slightly moulting frog costume with astonishing martial arts prowess, but who still needs help getting up and down stairs. Kageyama and the remnants of his crew vow to take down this dread beast, and the cartel with it.
The film is a tooth-rotting, mind-scrambling aspartame rush of nonsense, but its brilliance stems from the director’s flat refusal to distinguish between the sublime and the ridiculous. The martial arts battles are played for laughs, but the combat is shot from an over-the-shoulder angle that displays Ichihara and Ruhian’s whip-crack athleticism to its fullest advantage.
And though the frog monster looks uproariously low rent, it moves with a Chaplin-esque comic grace. In the Miikeverse, this is the way the world ends: with a bang, a whimper, a honk, a crash of cymbals, and lunatic laughter that rings all the way to doomsday and beyond.