REVIEW: The Mole Song: Hong Kong Capriccio (2016)

molesong2_posterReiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta), Tokyo’s worst police officer, was rehired as an undercover mole sent to infiltrate Japan’s most powerful yakuza syndicate. Now accidentally installed near the very head of the clan, he is tasked with taking down the Dragon Skulls – the Chinese triad making a move on yakuza territory.

The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (2014) was a raucously funny comedy from director Takashi Miike, adapting the Noburo Takahashi manga with a fast pace and a gleeful sense of the ridiculous. Two years later he returned to direct this sequel, Hong Kong Capriccio. Miike has always been a rapid director, helming as many as six or seven films in a year at his peak. Hong Kong Capriccio forms part of a cluster of manga adaptations Miike directed between 2016 and 2018 that also included Terra Formars, Blade of the Immortal, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and the anime-inspired children’s series Magical × Heroine Magimajo Pures!.

Hong Kong Capriccio begins with a frantic helicopter ride with Reiji dangling naked over Tokyo, as he breathlessly recounts the entire events of the original film. From there it is a breakneck jump into a story of kidnapped heiresses, Chinese assassins, yakuza traitors and human trafficking across Japan and Hong Kong. There is a new anti-corruption police chief hunting Reiji down, his yakuza master’s daughter to save, a pretty girl to romance, and underneath it all the continuing goal to trap and arrest the yakuza from within. This is not a film that wastes time.

Toma Ikuta is a gifted comedic actor, and his exaggerated performance provides many of the best comic moments. Reiji is an idiot, but he is a loveable idiot, and Ikuta sells that charm with immense skill. By contrast Shinichi Tsutsumi is wonderfully calm as the absurd and unflappable yakuza leader Crazy Papillon. Together they make one of the best comedic pairings in recent cinema history.

The humour varies from over-the-top slapstick to simply absurd weirdness. A group of rival yakuza are captured and tortured inside a cage on fire. The torture sequence comes with its own DJ, who plays folk music. This inspires the other yakuza to dance while their enemies get burned. That is within the first five minutes, and is not even close to the most surreal moments Miike and screenwriter Kankuro Kudo include. Rather a lot of comedy is drawn out of Reiji’s unsuccessful sex life as well. Often a turn-off for many viewers, the sexual content largely skates free by focusing on Reiji’s failings over any Carry On-style tittering about female nudity.

Hong Kong Capriccio is a perfect sequel and an excellent companion to the original Mole Song. One brief musical number even hints at a third installment. It has been five years since the film was released, but I – like many Miike fans I suspect – still wait in hope.

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