We all have demons, but not quite like those of the Laundryman (Joseph Chang). He is an anonymous hitman with a serious problem on his hands: the ghosts of his victims are following him around everywhere, rattling him and interfering with his job—which is done behind the scenes of a dry cleaning and laundry front. He enlists the help of funky, sassy medium Lin Hsiang (Wan Qian) to rid him of his demons, upsetting his boss, the icy hot femme fatale ex-psychiatrist A-gu (Sonia Sui), in the process. Danger, Laundryman, danger!
A dark comedy romance action thriller with the supernatural thrown in, I loved The Laundryman—and it has so much to love. It’s fun, colorful, and full of great energy. The story and the characters are clever and wonderfully strange, yet somehow plausible despite pushing the limits of ‘suspension of disbelief.’ The cinematography is sharp. The sets are loaded with delightfully tacky details without distracting from the action. Director Lee Chung plays with gender roles and archetypes, making his women fierce and the Laundryman the recipient of unwanted sexual advances. It all adds up to a ghastly good time: never cheesy or boring, The Laundryman is packed with action, suspense, and subtle humor that kept me through the end.
(AMC River East) B+
Chicago International Film Festival
According to Wikipedia, Yakuza are members of transnational organized crime syndicates originating in Japan. Notorious for their strict codes of conduct and organized nature, they have a heirarchy of bosses, advisors, and lackeys. They also have a number of rituals– stuff like cutting off fingers and getting full-body tattoos. Mmmm. In Yakuza Apocalypse, lieutenant Akira Kageyama (Hayato Ichihara) is turned into a vampire when his beheaded boss, Genyō Kamiura (Lily Franky), bites him just before he dies, passing on his “powers” presumably so Kageyama can avenge his death. For poor Kageyama, however, being a vampire sorely tests Kamiura’s mantra of “no harm to civilians” and upsets the status quo both in the city where the gang operates and within the syndicate.
I love a dumb movie as long as it’s fun, and a little bizarre goes a long way. Yakuza Apocalypse certainly is both, but despite a strong enough start it is fun only to a point. Too bad. I love the melding of genres: mafia, kung fu, gore, action, end of the world shit. It struck me that I witnessed something come full circle: Yakuza Apocalypse so obviously was influenced by Quentin Tarantino, who in turn so obviously was influenced by martial arts films. Plus, making the deadly monster everyone fears a guy in a fuzzy muppet-like frog suit is a small stroke of genius. However, the plot is choppy, confusing, and hard to follow. I’m not sure what the deal is with “The Captain” or Masuda, to name just two “what the fucks.” The joke gets old, fast: the film goes on about 45 minutes too long and repeats the same tedious, drawn out battles, chases, and other nonsense. The audience loved it, but I got lost and bored; at just about two hours, I thought it would never end.
(Gene Siskel Film Center) D+