Gozu is a truly insane film from madcap director Miike Takashi. A disturbing and dark journey into the realms of insanity it can be hard at times, to keep up with this Yakuza horror. Beautifully filmed and constructed this film has real impact and for the most part it´s none too pleasant.
We follow a young Yakuza henchman named Minami in his desperate efforts to control his eccentric boss Ozaki. Ozaki it seems is losing his mind, paranoia is consuming him and the big Yakuza boss decides he must be gotten rid of. Minami is ordered to take Ozaki to the "disposal site" in Nagoya, a small countryside backwater, and dispose of him.
Minami is reluctant to send the man who saved his life to his death but a short way into their journey it becomes clear that Ozaki truly is going mad. As events conspire against Minami he fails to reach the "disposal site" and he manages to lose his boss. He is then forced to trawl around the distinctly unfriendly and unsettling Nagoya to try and find Ozaki and deliver him as promised.
Miike creates a surreal and seriously creepy town full of bizarre and frightening characters. Minami struggles to get information out of anyone and upon phoning the big boss is instructed to seek help from a local Yakuza gang, unfortunately for him the Yakuza in Nagoya are just as strange as everyone else he has met from the three transvestite cafe workers to the breast milk obsessed innkeeper.
The direction is excellent, employing a lot of handheld tracking shots to deal with the action sequences Miike creates a sense of urgency which is contrasted with fixed slowly revealing shots which build the tension. The whole production is given a dreamlike quality or perhaps a nightmare like quality and indeed there are a number of dream sequences (by hight). The bizarre scenarios and feeling of mounting pressure are built without excesses of violence or horror and are reminiscent of David Lynch.
The acting in Gozu is key and luckily the cast is very good indeed. Hideki Sone plays Minami and he is a sympathetic character but does tend to blunder into awful situations rather than avoid them. Sho Aikawa is as good as ever as the insane Ozaki; his wild eyes are enough to suggest the madness going on within. Shohei Hino plays the Yakuza henchman Nose who is assigned to help Minami, he is a very strange character but also quite likeable. Kimika Yoshiko pops up towards the end of the film and she acts her part excellently well.
All of the characters seem to have some form of mental disorder and the overall effect is really disturbing. The film builds towards a truly horrifying end sequence which can hardly fail to shock. There is a brand of very black humour at work here but for the most part this film feels serious. The Yakuza are familiar from previous Miike films and black comedy is clearly something which appeals to him but the level of horror achieved here is quite astounding as the background hum of unsettling surrealism constantly threatens to spill over into terror, and it does in places.
Nothing I can say will really prepare you for this film. Fans of Miike's work will have an idea of what to expect the rest of you get ready for something you've never seen before. The film lasts over two hours but easily holds your attention and keeps you guessing until the dramatic finale and beyond. This is a skilfully made and thoroughly unique movie which constantly challenges the viewer and you may have considerable difficulty purging the warped surrealism from your mind.