It wouldn’t be a New York Asian Film Festival without at least one Takeshi Miike movie. People don’t write about him that often anymore. He might have become taken for granted after he was first discovered in the late 1990s with horror movies, subversively deconstructionist gangster movies, and odd, almost experimental and indescribable movies too weird to be considered arthouse but with grand themes and ambitions.
The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio is one of his latest, a sequel to his adaptation of Noburo Takahashi’s manga series about a horny, bumbling idiot cop who goes undercover in the Yakuza to bring down the boss of the biggest gang in Japan — and through sheer luck and wannabe tough guy stupidity, keeps falling upwards in the hierarchy while barely keeping his cover and staying alive. I’m assuming the manga is popular, because it sold four million copies in Japan and has spawned two live-action movies.
Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio is the total opposite of undercover cop dramas like Infernal Affairs or The Departed. Instead of solemn, stoic gangsters and cops fighting the good fight, engaging in heroic bloodshed and sacrifice, this is an utter piss-take of the yakuza and cop genre. Apart from the extravagant colours and art direction you’ve come to expect from Miike’s productions, there’s a very particular tone of slapstick goofiness throughout as everything is pushed ludicrously over-the-top. Miike draws on his own experience directing yakuza movies for decades and combines it with his roots in experimental theatre for maximum farce.
Heroic idiot cop Reiji Kikukawa — played with an irrepressible mix of wannabe-cool, hysteria and impeccable comic mugging by Toma Ikuta — is still ensconced deep in the yakuza, having been promoted to bodyguard of the big boss, the man he vowed to take down when he first went undercover. But life has gotten even more complicated.
There’s a new chief of police with a vendetta against moles like him. His superiors in the police force are still idiots who might hang him out to dry. He can’t help getting involved with his yakuza boss’ mean-girl daughter, which does not make his nerdy patrolwoman girlfriend happy, nor will the boss when he finds out. Oh, and double-crosses and Karen’s kidnapping sends the gang after a Chinese gang that’s going to take them all the way to an all-out war in Hong Kong. Just in time for the Chief of Police to declare Reiji Japan’s Most Wanted, and he has to infiltrate a slave auction in drag.
It wouldn’t be a Miike movie without moments of surreal oddness. A helicopter flies through the city hauling a cage of gangsters kidnapped from a sauna with a naked Reiji dangling from the bottom with only a newspaper stuck to his crotch. An evil gangster makes demands with a glove puppet. A Yakuza holds a meeting in a club with an avant-garde dancer undulating in the background. Reiji fights a sultry assassin in a public toilet with a dirty plunger. The badass yakuza has a bionic leg that can be controlled with a modded PlayStation Vita. It’s like an even nuttier, more fun episode of Gotham.
Miike is proudly wearing his low-budget V-Cinema roots on his sleeve, but with a decent budget and production values here, and going all in for comic book theatrical showmanship.Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio is just silly fun all the way where nothing is taken seriously, and the homage to Hong Kong action movies in the climax certainly doesn’t hurt.
Nothing I write here can do justice to how gleefully, gloriously insane this movie is. For Miike, why worry about logic when you can throw utter lunacy at the screen and have it all stick? This is the most fun I’ve had at a movie this year.
Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio premieres on July 14th. Tickets should still be available.
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