The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio [JIFF 2017] – Review

Flamboyant gangster action comedy.

18th Jeonju International Film Festival
Midnight Cinema

The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio
(土竜の唄 香港狂騒曲)

  • Directed by: Takashi Miike (三池崇史)
  • Starring: Toma Ikuta (生田斗真), Eita (瑛太), Riisa Naka (仲里依紗), Tsubasa Honda (本田翼), Yusuke Kamiji (上地雄輔 ), Nanao (菜々緒), Shinichi Tsutsumi (堤真一), Arata Furuta (古田新太), Kenichi Endo (遠藤憲一), Sarutoki Minagawa (皆川猿時), Mitsuru Fukikoshi (吹越満), Koichi Iwaki (岩城滉一)
  • The Film: When the new chief of police, Kabuto, vows to crackdown on police ties with yakuza organizations, undercover agent Reiji’s continued work as a mole embedded deep within a local yakuza organization becomes threatened. Before Reiji can resurface, he has one last opportunity to bring in the boss of Japan’s largest organized crime syndicate.

Review

The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio opens with a quick recap of the first film, Undercover Agent Reiji (2014), and explains how Reiji found himself in his current predicament. With the amount of names and factions it throws at you at rapid speed, it is quite overwhelming for someone who hasn’t seen the previous installment. However, I can assure you that seeing the original first in order to have an absolute blast in Hong Kong Capriccio is not necessary at all. Capriccio quickly becomes its own film and story while providing a fair amount of time for the audience to get familiar with the characters.

—MINOR PLOT SPOILERS—

Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) has been presumed to have lost his way among the yakuza after his undercover police work with with them in the film’s first installment. Thought by the bureau to have become a full-fledged member himself, Reiji has become a wanted man. But for Reiji, he is still on duty. And after a massive rival gang truce-signing, Reiji finds himself promoted to the #2 spot of his gang and given the prestigious appointment of body guard to Todoroki Suho (Koichi Iwaki), the old rival gang boss, as a show of trust between the new alliance.

Reiji’s first assignment is to look after the beautiful Karen (Tsubasa Honda), Todoroki’s no-nonsense and man-hating daughter. Karen takes to Reiji’s peculiarities rather well but before they can hit it off, she is suddenly kidnapped by the mercenary Chinese gang known as the Dragon Skulls, led by a rogue yakuza boss named Momoji (Arata Furuta), or more commonly known by his street name of Flying Squirrel. Reiji saves himself from Todoroki’s wrath by vowing to rescue Karen before she is sold to the highest bidder in Hong Kong. Through this incident, Reiji’s old undercover division as well as Junna (Riisa Naka), his love interest from the force, learns of his whereabouts and also task him with his final mission of gathering enough evidence to bring town Todoroki for good.

—END SPOILER—

Mole Song is based on the manga of the same name, written and illustrated by Noboru Takahashi. Visually speaking, it is quite possibly one of the best manga to film adaptations out there as each scene magically blends cartoonish escapism with reality. In Mole Song 2, you can expect a plethora of colorful yakuza characters complete with their own unique styles and quirks, exuberant gangster wardrobe, outlandishly decorated sets and props, animated interludes, characters breaking out into dance, and even gangsters with artificially enhanced limbs that let them have video game-esque brawls. It is all here and it is glorious.

The yakuza bosses and soldiers all have styles that scream personality. One of them, known as Flying Squirrel, embraces his name to a T and even has a cute flying squirrel hand-puppet he puts on to torture his victims. Reiji’s closest friend and older brother figure in the yakuza, his boss Papillon (french for butterfly), wears suits with colored butterflies printed all over them and has super strong prosthetic legs below the knees making him an awesome kicker in fights and can send multiple guys flying in one kick.

There is a ton of humor amidst all the different yakuza formalities and brawling that goes on in Mole Song 2. Some of the more slapstick moments are of Reiji’s “man-parts” finding themselves in all sorts of compromising positions that subject him to various forms of abuse, while in other scenes his wandering mind forces him to play a sort of snake-charmer role as he recalls a familiar tune on his childhood recorder to suppress bouts of uncontrollable stimulation. Toma Ikuta completely brings Reiji alive through his seemingly endless amount of animated facial expressions that match his crazy and bizarre ride through this colorful criminal underworld perfectly. Capriccio is also chock-full of surprises and ridiculously funny stunts and CGI that have to be seen to be believed.

One can not possibly imagine any other director capable of pulling off a gangster-action-comedy with so much flamboyance and make it work so well other than of course, Takashi Miike. To have a director so well-versed in practically every genre and bring so much of that experience together for this franchise is a truly special treatThe Mole Song movies proudly embrace their wacky identity and allow you to simply put them on with friends and laugh together at all the craziness. In contrast with last year’s Terra Formers (2016), Capriccio is a slam-dunk for Miike. Fans of the similarly flamboyant yet much more popular manga “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” should have everything to be looking forward to with Miike’s upcoming film adaptation, Diamond is Unbreakable, set for later this year.

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