Warning: As always, big spoilers ahoy.
This probably won't be as negative as the last two... mostly because this wasn't as bad (or crazy) of a movie as the others. In fact, I almost didn't write it up as this. But it's just weird enough that I had to. And just like last time, it's a Japanese movie that deals with people coming back from the dead. You'd think I'd learn? But this time, it's taken from a popular manga/comic by the same name.
And let me put this movie into perspective for you. It's a zombie movie/buddy comedy/action film directed by the same guy who did Ichi the Killer. Though it couldn't be any different. In fact, there's really not a whole lot of blood (which is a shame in a zombie movie).
The movie starts out telling the audience about Black Fuji, a trash mountain where people go to dump anything, from satellite dishes to chemical waste to human bodies.
After this point, it introduces us to our main guys: Fujio (afro guy) and Mitsuo (bald guy). As stated, one of them is an Asian guy with a huge afro, and the other is bald on top (though with hair around the sides). They work in a fire extinguisher factory, but spend most of their time practicing Jiujitsu. Mitsuo is a master, though Fujio is still learning the craft.
This is when their boss comes in and starts smacking Mitsuo around for fooling around, and Fujio bashes him over the head with a fire extinguisher, killing him. Not incredibly worried, the two guys take him to Black Fuji (where else) to bury him. And there, we're set up with what would seem to be the tone of the film. There's a bossy young woman shouting orders to her boyfriend/husband to bury his mother in the dirt (she's already up to her neck). And when the mother talks too much, the young woman runs up and kicks her head like a ball, and the head flies off into the distance, the mother still screaming after the son. In other words, it's very slapstick.
The first 50 minutes of the movie (or so) is similar to this. It's like what would have happened if Stephen Chow had written and directed Shaun of the Dead (in fact, this movie has been heralded as the Japanese Shaun of the Dead... and I can kinda sorta see it... at least in this first half of the movie). Though more of the movie at this point is sentimental relationship-building between the two leads than actual zombie fighting.
And this is where the movie really gets its first strike: the zombie fights are lame. They're using jiujitsu, first of all. But it's basically coming off as punching off heads with ease, or knocking them down to the ground. And all of this in quite a light tone.
As the two start driving the Russia (because that's where all fighters go to get better), the movie introduces us to its next character, a young woman named Yoko. She has a bad attitude and doesn't really seem to like either of them. She gets a bit annoying after a while, because she never really changes or shows any emotion except annoyance or hatred. Even when she's trying to be more emotional (towards the end), it's still coming off as upset or angry.
But anyway, very soon after this, Mitsuo gets bitten, says his goodbyes (including asking Fujio to take care of Yoko), and then jumps out of their van in a very cartoonish way off a bridge and into the water below. Fujio stops the van and tries to get Yoko out to throw her into the river, too. But a man obsessed with Calpis (assuming a type of alcohol) steals their van. Long story short, they both end up in the river below.
This is where the movie gets its second strike: the entire movie changes completely. It's like two completely different movies. While the first half seemed to be Shaun of the Dead via Stephen Chow, the second half was like Land of the Dead via Ang Lee (and produced by Stephen Chow). It jumps forward 5 years where the rich have build a living complex in the middle of the city, and they use poor people as slaves. Now, if the slaves want to rise in rank and live as the rich, they have to become popular. The best way of doing so is fighting in gladiator-like battles against zombies. Of course, Fujio and Yoko are slaves, and they even have a daughter that hasn't yet to speak a word in her life (though she's like... 4). Fujio, now a Jiujitsu master, uses his skills in the arena... but it's like Brad Pitt in Snatch. He's too good and lacks the entertainment value. He'll kill the zombie in one move, and that pisses off everybody.
This part of the movie is much darker and much more serious. It has its comedic moments, but it's not nearly as light as the first half... and that's incredibly jarring. Also, the movie breaks its own rules here. Whereas in the first half, zombies were just mindless, slow creatures... this second half, they have the ability to remember any fighting abilities, assuming they were fighters in their past life. Also, just punching their heads off doesn't even exist anymore. Where it was so easy a scrawny young woman could do it at the beginning, it seems to be impossible now.
The best comedic moments come from a guy called Prince. He's the guy who first called out the zombies taking over the city, and seems to be the guy running the whole rich people complex. But he has a bit where he carries around a little doll with a removable head, and he's obsessed with decapitation. He'll constantly ask something like "Did you decapitate it? Did you decapitate it?" And after every time he asks, there's a *pop* as he removes the head from the doll. He was one of the only parts of the film that made me laugh out loud.
But of course, the end of the movie brings back Mitsuo and Fujio in the ring, as Mitsuo is apparently the "Strongest Zombie." But the weird part is when Mitsuo starts talking, and you're not sure if he's actually talking or if it's a hallucination (as we had previously been shown Fujio has when in regards to talking to Mitsuo).
But then, of course, the "Calpis" guy shows up at the complex with a band of others, raiding the place for Calpis. He blows up most of the complex to get in, and then enters the fighting arena. He brings in a gattling gun that apparently shoots out both number 1 and number 2, if you know what I mean, and fires it at all the rich, snobby women who come to see the fight as he yells at them to tell him where the Calpis is.
Fujio had 'defeated' Mitsuo and escapes with the Calpis guy, who gives him a motorcycle with a sidecar. Fujio, who had left his wife and daughter earlier, goes and picks them up. And, of course, the daughter speaks her first words at this vital moment, though it's what Yoko keeps saying throughout the majority of the movie: "Are you a fucking retard?"
They escape the complex, save the life of the fighting announcer (who is gay for Fujio), and drive off for Russia. But that's not all! The movie rewinds 5 minutes and shows Mitsuo sitting up after being defeated. Then it rewinds 5 years and shows the moment he was bitten. Apparently, he had just been bitten by dentures, so he traveled around for 5 years thinking he was a zombie. And if any real zombies attacked him, he'd just beat them down and scream at them ("I'm a zombie, too, you idiot. God, don't you even know your own kind? Zombies these days...")... and the zombie would bow in shame and shamble away. So zip forward to the present, and Mitsuo runs after Fujio. The movie pretty much ends there.
This might not sound overly weird, but it's really the intricacies of the movie that make it bizarre. There are the odd little visuals or the cartoonish sound effects. And let's not forget a couple animated interludes. This movie is incredibly hard to explain in its strangeness.
But its biggest downfall is its tone. Even in the first half, it can't really find a good tone. Sometimes it tries too hard to be slapstick, and then goes into the more serious dramedy. And, of course, the huge shift around the halfway mark (a little after it) that totally alters the entire movie in every way. The second biggest downfall is the lack of good zombie action in this zombie movie. There are plenty of zombie moments, but they weren't done nearly well enough... especially for a movie that promises zombies versus Jiujitsu.
It does have some good moments, though, so the movie isn't a complete wash, much like the other two "WTF Did I Just Watch" films (Feast 3 and Casshern). There's even a really good line in the film toward the end: "Since you have nothing, anything is possible." If I ever saw this movie on Showtime or something, I might stop to watch it for a little while (depending if anything better was on). Like I said at the beginning, the only reason I wrote it under this format is because I don't think I could have reviewed it without explaining the spoilerous details of the film as a whole.
With that being said, I certainly don't recommend you go out and see this immediately. Unless you're a super fan of zombies or are just curious as to how crazy this movie is based on this review, I wouldn't suggest bothering to see it at all, honestly. And that's about all I have.