Gozu Movie Review
Gozu has its share of violence and depravity, but Miike fans accustomed to the outrageousness of films like Ichi the Killer will be amazed and disappointed by the slow pace and pregnant pauses of his latest effort.
When mid-level yakuza Ozaki (Sho Aikawa) informs his crew that the tiny little dog he just spotted outside the restaurant is an assassin dog sent to kill yakuza, they think he's weird. When he steps outside, smashes the dog to the pavement, then swings it around by its leash and hurls it into the window, killing it but good, they think he's nuts. The boss (Renji Ishibashi) decides that it's time for Ozaki to go, and he assigns the task of killing him to Minami (Hideki Sone), Ozaki's young and loyal assistant.
Minami is conflicted, but soon he's in his white Mustang convertible driving Ozaki to Nagoya, where the hit will take place. But when Minami slams on his brakes suddenly, Ozaki smashes into the dashboard, breaks his neck, and dies.
Or does he? When Minami stops at a crummy little café on the outskirts of town and leaves the car for a moment, Ozaki disappears. At this point, Miike takes his film straight into David Lynch territory, complete with eerie soundtrack (imagine an upright bass being played with a hacksaw).
The café is run by three creepy transvestites. Outside the shop, a man called Nose (Shohei Hino), half of whose face is painted white, sits in the grass. Offering to help Minami, Nose takes him to a truly weird inn, where the 60-ish woman in charge (Keiko Tomita) informs Minami that she can produce breast milk, which she then vividly demonstrates. (Disturbing aside: This isn't Miike's first foray into the realm of excessive breast milk production. See Visitor Q, in which oceans of it flood every available surface.) The innkeeper's Lurch-like brother (Harumi Sone) hides in the background except when he's being savagely whipped by his sister.
The hunt for Ozaki continues and only gets stranger and stranger (the inn's light fixtures leak breast milk, for example), especially when a beautiful young woman (Kimika Yoshino) shows up and claims she is Ozaki, a claim she backs up by repeating information that only Ozaki could know. Lynchian, to say the least. Throw in a weird dream (Lynch!) about a creature that's half man and half cow (gozu means "cow head" in Japanese), and the movie comes close to spinning completely out of control.
Not that all this plot really matters much. At a Miike movie, the idea is to enjoy the buildup to each scene's wacky climax, all of which build toward the grand finale, which in this case is plenty wacky indeed. The problem is that Gozu's jolts are spread too far apart. The people who walked out of the screening I attended left not during the violent scenes but during the slow ones. Those of us who stayed stole several glances at our watches as we waited for the next bloody murder or insane sex act to come along.
For Miike fans, Gozu is a go-see, but Miike newbies will get a better feel for his one-of-a-kind imagination from any of his other films.
Aka Gokudô kyôfu dai-gekijô: Gozu.
You'll go nuts for Gozu!