Izo

"Bad"

Izo Review


Legendarily outrageous Japanese director Takashi Miike swings for the fences every time. When he connects, with films such as Audition, Visitor Q, and Ichi the Killer, the results are unforgettable, true home runs of wild depravity. When he misses, he misses big. Unfortunately, Izo is one of those epic whiffs.

The hyperproductive Miike (he's helmed an astounding 64 movies in 13 years) loves to push the boundaries of cinematic violence, and in Izo, he also pushes the boundary of time itself, taking his story across three centuries in hopscotch fashion. It all starts with a crucifixion in 1865. Izo (Kazuya Nakayama) is an assassin who is captured, tortured, and killed by soldiers of the Shogun. The problem is that he doesn't really die. Instead, he becomes an avenging ghost of death, traveling through time to spread murder and mayhem wherever he happens to land. He has some serious rage issues.

After a rapid-fire collage of documentary footage of the history of human depravity (Hitler, Stalin, Khmer Rouge, firebombings, firing squads), Izo is off and running, showing up anywhere and everywhere and swinging his samurai sword at anyone who crosses his path. "That hurts," his victims often say as his sword disembowels them. Along the way (which isn't to suggest there's a logical path), Izo runs into various ghosts and demons who recite cryptic nonsense that only pisses him off more. He's also interrupted frequently by a truly terrible folk singer who screeches out long bits of unintelligible narration accompanied by his awful guitar playing. It's like There's Something About Mary, only bad.

Izo takes on bayonet-thrusting World War II-era Japanese soldiers in 1945, a fully armored SWAT team in modern-day Tokyo, groovy Yakuza gangs, and various ghoulies and demons. He chops up an entire wedding party (Miike films that scene upside down), and in perhaps his most transgressive moment, he encounters a group of young families at an abandoned amusement park. Their questions -- Who are you? Why are you so violent? What is your purpose? -- go unanswered. No way, you think, he's not going to hack up all those kids, is he? He is. Blood-soaked toddlers are scattered everywhere by the time the scene ends.

And so it goes. Izo is more of an endurance test than a movie. Even Izo himself runs out of steam. He gets more and more tired, more and more inexpressive (eventually all he can do is scream), and more and more demonic. Like The Highlander (only bad), no matter how often he is stabbed, shot, or pierced with arrows, he can't be killed. He just gets back on his feet and keeps going, leaving us to worry that the movie may never end.

I was going to write that Izo is unwatchable, but that's not really true. There's certainly a lot to see. It's more accurate to say that Izo is incomprehensible, and not only to me but also to the theater full of world cinema Ph.D. candidates and film fanatics who watched with me and found themselves laughing at the absurdity of it all. There maybe some message here about humanity's tendency toward violence and horror and the inevitable repetition of history, but if there is, it's hopelessly lost in mind-numbing gore.

It's funny, though. Soon enough Miike will step up to the plate again, and we'll all race to the theater to watch him swing for the fences one more time. Like Izo, he can't be stopped.

He's so Izo.



Izo

Facts and Figures

Run time: 128 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 21st August 2004

Distributed by: Omuro

Production compaines: KSS, Excellent Film, Izo Partners, Office Kitano

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

IMDB: 6.2 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Kazuya Nakayama as Okada Izo, as Ryuuhei Matsuda, as (as 'Bîto' Takeshi)

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