September 24, 2004


Directed by Takashi Miike

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

Obscenely prolific (pun intended) Japanese shock-meister Takashi Miike’s third film this year is a time-traveling, genre-bending samurai swashbuckler that ponders existential mores. An unofficial sequel to Hideo Gosha’s 1969 epic Hitokiri, Izo is one of the more somber and substantive efforts among Miike’s 60 titles.

Narrated by a croaky folk singer, the film depicts the afterlife of an assassin captured and crucified by the Shogunate in 1865. Endlessly wandering through time and space as if condemned to eternal hell, Izo is out for blood and spares no one – his mother, an ex-lover, school kids, Buddhist monks, samurais, yakuza, a SWAT team, vampires and the prime minister (a cameo by “Beat” Takeshi Kitano).

A conceptually ambitious pastiche that blends the hallmarks of David Lynch, Akira Kurosawa, Dante and Shaw Brothers, Izo isn’t exactly the kind of trashy pulp that fans expect from Miike. The film struggles to make sense of the perpetual cycle of violence throughout the history of human existence, sporadically using archival newsreels to illustrate the phenomenon. Ultimately too cryptic and iconoclastic, this unparalleled effort will leave most viewers baffled.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2004 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.