Bursting with anarchic energy and awash with lurid colours, The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio surpasses its 2013 predecessor in sheer entertainment value as a consistently ridiculous crime caper.
Prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike again takes the helm, with Toma Ikuta reprising his role as undercover cop Reiji Kikukawa in this second adaptation of Noboru Takahashi’s popular manga series. The film had its world premiere this past Friday at the inaugural International Film Festival and Awards Macao.
When Reiji’s underworld antics unwittingly result in a truce between the two most powerful yakuza gangs, he is promoted to second-in-command and invited to become live-in bodyguard for the boss and his family. Reiji’s new duties include babysitting his employer's seemingly innocent daughter, Karen (Tsubasa Honda), who quickly reveals herself to be a spoilt manipulative brat determined to make Reiji her lap dog.
While certainly attracted to Karen, Reiji’s is terrified of disobeying his boss’s explicit instructions not to touch her. He also lost his virginity recently to sweet-natured patrolwoman Junna (Riisa Naka), leaving him agonisingly torn. But when Karen is kidnapped right under his nose by the Chinese Demon Skulls gang, and shipped off to Hong Kong to be sold in a human trafficking auction, our hero must leap into action once again.
Meanwhile, Kabuto (Eita) has just been instated as the police force’s youngest ever chief, and makes his first plan of action weeding out any corrupt cops or undercover yakuza within the force. However, it soon becomes evident that his motives may be more nefarious and self-serving than simply maintaining the sanctity of the force.
Miike tells his story at a manic fever pitch, fuelled by Reiji’s histrionic inner-monologue, in which we are made privy to every thought that passes between his ears, from his fear of getting unmasked as a cop, to his libidinous yearnings for pretty much every female he encounters, as well as the imminent dangers of taking on the Chinese mafia.
While this could easily prove nauseating, Kankurô Kudô’s screenplay is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and packed full of such bafflingly implausible moments - a CGI tiger and slide-flute erections spring to mind - that the only defence is total submission to the film’s silliness.
Beyond the film’s eye-popping production design and flamboyant costumes, Miike also experiments with different mediums, utlising stop-motion, photo cut-outs and animated backdrops, sometimes for no justifiable reason whatsoever other than aesthetic overload. The performances are all cranked up to eleven, yet somehow remain the right side of obnoxious, even when breaking the fourth wall to scream directly into the camera.
Toma Ikuta is hugely likeable as the dimwitted lead, bumbling his way from one near-death experience to the next through dumb luck, only occasionally assisted by fellow gangster Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi) or the infinitely more capable women who are never far from his side.
The film’s climax, which takes place in and around Hong Kong’s towering 2 IFC, bares more than a passing resemblance to the end of Dante Lam’s Sky on Fire. But while the sight of Daniel Wu in a parachute attracted ridicule for that film’s straight-faced execution, Miike embraces the absurdity of his big finale to hilarious effect.
What could so easily have been a tiresome and exhausting slog boulders along with a deranged, feverish enthusiasm that never tries to sell itself as anything other than unbridled bombastic nonsense. With The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio, Miike has struck the perfect sweet spot between his slick, commercial offerings that so often disappoint, and his violent, sexy, anarchic work for which he has justly garnered legions of passionate fans.
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