Izo (2004)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Samurai Film  |   Run Time - 128 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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In making a film about one man's eternal hell, maverick filmmaker Takashi Miike has fallen prey to imitative fallacy, putting the audience through redundant and seemingly endless torture. Miike has never been afraid to challenge his audience, and that's not a bad thing. While he has never matched the kind of pinpoint precision in manipulating tension and critiquing his culture that he achieved with Audition, his later films at least evinced a kind of insanely over-the-top joyousness at engaging the audience through cinema. Ichi the Killer and Izo may be unforgivably sadistic and unfathomably weird, respectively, but they are also brilliantly, boldly original films, and we can always sense the creator's mind working. We might not have any idea where Izo is going, or what it all means, but there's little doubt that Miike does. With Izo, the ideas are spelled out through the inert dialogue about the nature of Izo (Kazuya Nakayama) and the lazy use of newsreel footage of historical figures like Hitler and Stalin, but the only thing that resonates is the sense that the filmmaker is just going through the motions. Izo pops into a vaguely denoted time and place, takes a moment to gain his bearings, and starts killing, all to the egregious accompaniment of Tomokawa Kazuki thrashing an acoustic guitar while also croaking out inane metaphors and philosophical ramblings. There are a few startling sequences, like the one where Izo flies sideways through a wedding party, or his cleverly gory execution of his own mother, that linger in the memory. Nevertheless, all but the most blindly loyal Miike fans will find sitting through this distended and monotonous film an ordeal.