I’ll die a virgin yakuza.”– Undercover Agent Reiji (Toma Ikuta)
Donnie Brasco is paid a visit by a bunch of yakuza gang members and Takeshi Miike (Ichi the Killer, 2001) in this Manga adaptation of Mogura no Uta by Noboru Takahashi, and shot comic-book style.
What amazes me is Miike’s energy, whose levels are going through the roof (or roofs), it seems; more than Duff McKagan’s blood alcohol in the Nineties and Jimi Hendrix’s heroin toxicology at the time of his death, combined. Those are bad associations, however, the impact of a Miike film is no less than an African white rhinoceros charging at the keen viewer and then impaling the keen viewer to the wall with its dermal horn, while the keen viewer looks at the intestines exit the stomach and fall to the floor with a thump and a few slithering splashes. No more keen viewer.
Do we see any good association anywhere, at all? And I’m not just referring to my statement above, nor the film.
Undercover Agent Reiji is funny, ingenious and ‘Miike crude‘ with the camp notched right up to fucking eleven; the Manga level. The kaleidoscope film, with its blinding colors, in-jokes, and Nickelodeon animation should not make sense. The brilliance lies in the fact that not only does it make sense but also keeps the viewer completely enthralled and entertained and satisfied with its flair and fluidity, which keep the outrageous from going all boob-slip.
The color palette of Reiji defines its mythology, smoky and grimy and visceral and squashing innocence with its military-issued boots.
An asshole policeman Reiji (Tôma Ikuta) is almost fired until his resilience and an escort service business card make the Captain re-hire him as a mole. This leads to the transition of a clueless Reiji into a badass motherbitch who wears the sleaziest footwear ever, not to mention the outrageously ornamented suits. He’s basically dressed like a pimp throughout and then expects everyone to take him seriously. He must infiltrate the most dangerous yakuza clan in the galaxy and bust their drug deals and their balls, from the inside, all along winning the trust of Hiura played by the dazzling and intense Shin’ichi Tsutsumi (Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, 2014); a yakuza mediator who loves jokes and butterflies.
Oh, and by the way, the hot sauce in the bubbling eyes torture scene is in here somewhere, however, it is deliberately brought down a few decibels and minutes from pouring smoking cooking oil on boiling skin; perhaps to stop it from going overboard with the rest of the over-the-top Manga obligations. The white-haired Tsukihara (Takayuki Yamada) is yet another force to reckon with.
Filled with street fights and men throwing away their weapons to go mano a mano, old school style, and tongue in cheek melodrama, Undercover Agent Reiji is not filled with ultra blood and gore, deliberately, it seems; for the violence to not get over the top like in Miike’s other films with a reputation. There’s an unsettling feeling that Miike just might be coming off the high. But no, First Love, 2019, his latest outing, has him holding buckets of pig blood once again. Buckets to spill over the set pieces.
Coupled with breathtaking visuals and even more gut-wrenching (by intent) costume design (I’m not complaining) and the Anime costume kink, the film delivers a jab so hard that you feel like the Narrator from Fight Club, 1999 – liberated.
Miike and his bandana make fun of everything, including this film, which is quite heart-warming, just like how he satirizes & parodies the diamond-studded teeth of Jaws from Moonraker, 1979.
Overall, Agent Reiji, although not for everyone, is a marvelous, highly charged and an oddball cinema/DVD outing (a bit dragging though, with its explanations for the newbie), with a lighthearted, if not laughable, message.
A high-grade film that is full of flagrant artistry, which does not offend. Well, not this viewer at least.
A must watch for the Miike-Manga-Grindhouse disciples.
Buy your copy here or by clicking on the image above.
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