Cyber legs, tigers, and plungers, oh my!

The New York Asian Film Festival ran from June 30 to July 16. For more information about what you missed, click here.

It feels wrong somehow that it’s taken me three whole excursions to the New York Asian Film Festival before they finally showed a Takashi Miike film.

If, dear reader, you are unfamiliar with Takashi Miike… well, frankly, that’s just too much to get into here, and I’ll thank you to google him on your own time. Suffice to say he’s a very prolific filmmaker responsible for some of the wildest, most grotesque, most mind-melting films ever released.

And if you think that’s hyperbole, I present for your viewing pleasure Exhibit A, which is NSFW as fuck:



It’s been about 6 or so years (which translates to roughly 17 films) since I last checked in with Miike, who in recent years has mellowed slightly and taken to primarily making adaptations of various media properties. His latest (though, again, that might not be true by the end of this sentence) is the sequel to 2013’s Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji, which, like so many of his latter day projects, was adapted from a manga.

However long it’s been, Miike has not lost his ability to hit the ground running: the film opens with a naked Reiji clinging for his life to a rope dangling from a cage full of Yakuza kidnapped from a sauna, which in turn is dangling from a helicopter. Which is subsequently plopped down on a bonfire surrounded by cops.

So it’s safe to say that this will not be one of your more serious Yakuza movies.

While previous Miike movies have started strong and dragged in the middle, Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio (which for whatever reason is credited onscreen as Mole Song 2: 2nd Stanza) is spry and punchy for the duration of its over two hour run time. The movie speeds through its recap of the first movie at a rocket’s pace, which left me struggling to jot down who did what to whom, before realizing that the details were going to be irrelevant; this is a movie that exists only to entertain, and is in an extreme rush to do it.

In fact, it’s nearly a half hour before the movie even takes a breath to run the credits, which in typically screwball fashion, is hummed by Reiji’s superiors as they shuffle away from the camera, closing on the lyrically hopeful line “There may be a Verse 3!”

Now, then, to summarize the thin story here to the best of my ability: Reiji, the undercover cop, is posing as a Yakuza to bring down the kingpin of all kingpins, Shuho Todoroki. After whatever the hell happened in the first movie, he is promoted to Shuho’s bodyguard and separated from his closest ally, the one-legged bruiser Kabuto, who is sent to take charge of another wing of the organization. Former member of the clan Momoji, a.k.a. Flying Squirrel for reasons that are revealed to be bewilderingly literal minded, has joined up with the Chinese gang known as the Dragon Skulls, who are running a human trafficking ring and capture Shuho’s sadistic yet virginal daughter Karen, prompting Reiji to engage in a highly dangerous rescue mission.

It’s a comedy, you know!

The plot, of course, is basically meaningless, just an excuse to shove Reiji into increasingly ridiculous scenarios and visual gags, and on that level, it really works. It’s rarely more than a minute or two between jokes, and the hit to miss ratio is surprisingly strong, provided your sensibility skews towards the absurdist end of the scale.

It is, of course, a waste of time to try and describe comedy, but by way of example of what we’re dealing with here, there’s a gag that reoccurs several times over the course of the movie where Reiji, who apparently lost his virginity to his girlfriend Junna in the previous film, finds himself in a number of awkward encounters with scantily clad women, and his state of arousal is represented by a little boy playing a flute in the lower left corner of the screen. Also, a plunger becomes a lethal weapon and there are a series of gags revolving around Kabuto’s replacement cyber leg, which is easily controlled by a PlayStation controller.

Also, there’s a tiger.

If all that sounds like the sort of thing that might amuse you, Mole Song is your home now….

Miike gives everything his typically sleek sheen, and directs both the sight gags and the action sequences pulse with energy. If there’s a downside to be found, it very much resides in the rather lighthearted treatment of human trafficking, which tends to leave kind of a bad taste in ones mouth. But it’s hard to stay mad at a movie so full of visual invention, hilarious performances, and goofy yet exciting action.

Just as the police chiefs implied with their song thirty minutes in, the conclusion of the movie very much seems to point towards a third and final film.

If it’s half as much fun as this one, it will twice as much fun as any other comedy I’ve seen this year.

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