Second in Japan only to Takashi Miike as an outrageously prolific and wicked genre geyser, Sion Sono is most notorious here for the four-hour teen-perv epic Love Exposure (2011). This cut-artery farce is less typical, and a good deal goofier, riffing on yakuza films by way of Hong Kong comedy, a wink-nudge-slash reflective Tarantino-ness, and millennials’ absurd nostalgia for the ’80s.
Sono makes long movies obese with plot, and here we have, over a 10-year span, a movie-drunk amateur “cinema club” called the Fuck Bombers getting entangled with a mob war that evolves, preposterously, into a film shoot, so as to showcase one boss’s punky actress-daughter, to impress her mother, who’s getting out of prison after slaughtering the other gang’s men in a lake of blood years earlier, when the little girl was the star of an infectious toothpaste commercial…That’s a sliver of it, and it just gets more manic, as the inevitable clash of clans is fought and “directed” for the Bombers’ cameras in an endless mega-set-piece filthy with bouncing severed heads, samurai-sword hackings, spoofy gags, and machine-gun-blasting cameramen in mid-dolly.
It’s hard not to love the pitched combat between shrieking cinephilia and everyday yakuza mundanities. (Even Eugen Schüfftan is name-checked, of all people.) But Sono is not subtle, too often lacking the deft touch needed to make the satire fly; he encourages his actors to scream far too much, and only a few, including Shinishi Tsutsumi as the opposing ganglord in swoony love with the vampy lead actress, bring their own supplies of comic poise and timing.
Even so, the film’s blast of self-mocking overkill can be charming.