Saturday, July 08, 2017

NYAFF ’17: The Mole Song—Hong Kong Capriccio

For years, Japanese Imperialists have been the stand-by villains of every other Chinese movie, so it is about time the Japanese film industry returned the favor. Say what you will, but the Yakuza have standards. Evidently, when yakuza are disavowed by their clans, they often find an outlet for their rage working for the Chinese mafia. Frankly, that is about as much serious cultural analysis you’re ever going to get with Takasi Miike’s latest deliriously mad sequel. The lunacy comes fast and furious as Reiji Kikukawa, the world’s most incompetent undercover cop, keeps infiltrating deeper and deeper into the yakuza hierarchy in Miike’s The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio, which screens during the 2017 New York Asian Film Festival.

Kikukawa was hoping to get extracted and rehabilitated long before now. After all, a bunch of bad guys got busted in The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji. However, it turns out there is another verse to the “Mole Song,” the out of tune ditty used by the trio of senior coppers to give Kikukawa his marching orders (they also hint there is a third verse, so the supernaturally prolific Miike probably finished another Mole Song movie in the time it took you to read this far).

Alas, Kikukawa is a victim of his own success. He is now the #2 man in the Hiura Clan, completely trusted by the bionic boss, Masaya Hiura, a.k.a. “Crazy Papillion.” His access could not get any better when he is chosen to serve as the personal bodyguard of Shuho Todoroki, the boss of the overall Sukiya-Kai clan, who is feeling the heat from the Dragon Skulls, a vicious Chinese gang trying to takeover illicit marketshare in Japan. When the Skulls kidnap Todoroki’s hot but mean daughter Karen, it puts Kikukawa in an awkward spot, but he fortuitously saves the boss himself before having to sacrifice a few body parts. From there, he and Hiura are off to Hong Kong to save Karen from the Skulls’ white slavery auction, where things will really get silly.

Like its predecessor except more so, HK Capriccio is the sort of film that could induce seizures in viewers of a certain age or light sensitivity. The action careens in about a hundred different directions at once, but is frequently interrupted by animated sequences, musical numbers, flashbacks, dream sequences, and just plain randomness. It is a whirlpool of outrageously colorful costumes and back-stabbing shenanigans, not the least bit anchored by the naïve yet somehow often naked Kikukawa.

You have to give the rubber-faced and rubber-boned Toma Ikuta credit. He pretty much lets it all hang out as Kikukawa, taking whatever humiliation, ridicule, or pratfall might be coming his way, like a good soldier. Once again, Shinichi Tsutsumi is superhumanly hardnosed as the hard-charging Papillion. Yet, it is Tsubasa Honda who really escalates the insanity considerably over and above the first film, as the sultry “on wheels” yakuza daughter.

Arguably, HK Capriccio is probably one of the year’s greatest directing feats, because this much bedlam must require a heck of a lot of work. If you enjoyed the first Mole Song, the second chorus is even better. On the other hand, if you just didn’t get the prior Agent Reiji than you’re pretty much on your own here. Highly recommended for Miike fans, The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio screens Friday (7/14), at the SVA Theatre, as part of this year’s NYAFF.