MIFF REVIEW: The Mole Song Final (2021)

Incompetent police officer Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta) has spent several years working undercover in one of Japan’s most powerful yakuza clans. Now the time has finally come to close the trap on its leader – but is Reiji in too deep?

Takashi Miike’s madcap comedy trilogy The Mole Song finally reaches a conclusion with this climactic instalment. While it lacks the sheer surfeit of energy and throwaway ideas that typified Undercover Agent Reiji (2013) and Hong Kong Capriccio (2016), it remains consistently funny and entertaining. This particular well of comedy has not run dry, so to speak, but you can see the bottom if you peer in. It’s good to see it wind up in a solid and enjoyable fashion.

Miike remains one of Japan’s most wildly prolific directors; The Mole Song Final is his 107th film. He is also one of its most varied filmmakers. His films include comedies, dramas, straight-laced thrillers, extremely confronting horror – even children’s cinema. The Mole Song captures him at his most ridiculous: a bawdy style of comedy that fits somewhere between sex farce and Hong Kong-style mo lei tau as typified by Stephen Chow.

Ikuta slips comfortably back into the lead role after a gap of five years. This final adventure sees Reiji accompanying yakuza boss Shuho Todoroki (Koichi Iwaki) to Italy, where a record-breaking deal is made to ship Mafia amphetamines to Japan. For Reiji, it means a chance to finally put Todoroki away for good, but for fellow yakuza Crazy Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi) it is an opportunity to sabotage the deal and destroy the narcotics he hates so much. Throw in Todoroki’s hulking, ambitious, and remarkably hirsute heir (Ryuhei Suzuki), Reiji’s continuing romantic troubles with fiancee Junna (Riisa Naka), and a trio of rapping police handlers, and there is a wealth of material for the film to race through in a typically anarchic fashion.

It cannot be denied that everything feels just a little underwhelming this third time around. Viewers who enjoyed the humour and tone of the first two films will almost certainly enjoy it all again, but there is a low vibe of obligation about this new outing. The franchise’s unique qualities shine brightly, but the additional spark of enthusiasm simply does not seem to be there. The film also feels overly long at 129 minutes, but this is a problem it shares with many Japanese screen comedies and may just be a cultural difference.

Despite its faults, it is good to spend one final two hour adventure with these characters. It wraps up ongoing story and character arcs, and closes the book on what is overall an excellent comedy franchise. That it remains effectively unavailable to audiences outside of Japan or international festivals – none of the three films appear to have been released on home video with subtitles – is an ongoing and frustrating oversight.

The Mole Song Final is screening at the 2022 Melbourne International Film Festival. Click here for more information.

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