'The Mole Song — Hong Kong Capriccio': Film Review | Shanghai 2017

THE MOLE SONG  - Still 1 -Publicity-H 2017
Courtesy of the Shanghai Film Festival
Great fun for the manga crowd, this is Miike at his flamboyant best.

Director Takashi Miike reprises the breathless craziness of his 2013 cops-and-yakuza hit in a sequel with even more action, again starring the irrepressible Toma Ikuta.

When the Tokyo police department infiltrated pesky bumbler Reiji (Toma Ikuta) into a yakuza clan on a suicide mission in the 2013 hit The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji, they couldn't have imagined he would not only survive but flourish and come back for more delirious punishment in the second installment, The Mole Song – Hong Kong Capriccio. Showing every sign of becoming a durable franchise, this high-spirited adaptation of Noboru Takahashi's manga displays director Takashi Miike at his flamboyant best, with young Ikuta flexing his muscles as the tacky but indomitable hero fighting for justice in a corrupt world. Its festival run, which began in Macao, continues to spread the word outside Japan.

Ask not for logic.

After slapping together quickie visual extravaganzas and blood baths at the rate of two or three a year, Miike has reached the point where he can effortlessly mix genres, pile on the outrageous and still make it obsessive viewing. Following a madcap recap of highlights from the first film, we find Reiji flying through the air, hanging on for dear life to the bottom of a cage full of shrieking gangsters, as a helicopter transports them to certain death. The audience grasps all this in a matter of seconds, but can't tear their eyes away from one detail: a newspaper fig leaf strategically covering Reiji's privates (for some reason, everybody is naked).

Shot like an action scene, it's laugh-out-loud funny and exciting at the same time, particularly when the captives reach their destination: a "yakuza barbecue," in which the cage is slowly lowered onto a fire to fry the gangsters, while the rival clan does an absurd folk dance around them.

Plotting how Reiji manages to escape from this and a dozen other impossible situations would give Agatha Christie a headache, but Kankuro Kudo's ever-clever screenplay makes it seem like child's play. Apart from substantial amounts of dumb luck, Reiji can count on his old team on the police force to come to his aid, as well as the boss he works for undercover, and his indestructible gangster pal Papillon (the delightful Shinichi Tsutsumi, wearing his trademark butterfly tux from the first film).

Reiji can't wait to end his mission and be reinstated on the force, where he hopes to be reunited with love interest Junna, to whom he lost his virginity in part one. The main obstacle to this plan is the self-righteous new police chief Kabuto, who insists there's no turning back for the mole; instead of working to get him out of his predicament, he actively plots to embroil him further in the underworld. But hellish and cruel as it is, the dark side is a far more colorful place than the police corps, and offers a misfit like Reiji a lot more understanding.

Plus there's Karen (Tsubasa Honda), the boss' daughter, to look after. Sexy and sadistic, she torments Reiji mercilessly before being taken hostage by the Hong Kong-based Dragon Skulls in a move to force her father to resign as head honcho. Reiji attempts to rescue her in the next set piece, which brings some nice fighting into play.

After a relatively quiet interval, the action revs up for its Hong Kong climax. Karen has been abducted by Hu Fen, a sly cat woman with a whip (actress Nanao, looking more maitresse than villainess), and has been taken to a swanky H.K. hotel to be auctioned off to the highest bidder along with a bevy of beautiful girls. Enter Reiji cross-dressed as one of the sales items. Unmasked, he stages a ferocious martial arts battle with Hu Fen, brandishing a filthy toilet plunger in a scene bound to be remembered.

The final free-for-all on top of a towering building features a giant tiger and a parachute. 'Nuff said.

Shooting on soundstages in extravagant, garish colors that seem to quote old Chinese films and in a mixture of fake languages meant to pass as Cantonese in the H.K. scenes, Miike and his expert tech staff obviously have a ball making a hash of movie conventions. Unlike many of his more slapdash efforts, there's nothing cheap-looking in the tech work and the unabashed display of vulgarity, silly costumes and bosses dressed as flying squirrels.

The good-humored cast is endearing all round, even the baddies. Ikuta, who left an impression as the sensitive transgender heroine Rinko in Naoko Ogigami's Close-Knit, is very much at home in an over-the-top role, turning his Ben Stiller-ish nerd into a stubborn, brave, bleached blond hero who looks good in and out of his eye-catching wardrobe.

Production company: Oriental Light and Magic
Cast: Toma Ikuta, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Eita, Tsubasa Honda, Arata Furuta
Director: Takashi Miike
Screenwriters: Kankuro Kudo, based on Noboru Takahashi's manga
Producers: Juichi Uehara,Misako Saka, Shigeji Maeda
Director of photography:  Nobuyasu Kita
Production designer: Yuji Hayashida
Music: Koji Endo

Editor: Kenji Yamashita
Sales: Pony Canyon
Venue: Shanghai Film Festival (New from Auteur)

128 minutes