I like pointless carnage as much as the next person, which is why my reaction to this movie surprises me so much. I would not have thought it possible that such a relentlessly gory movie could be so dull. This is not a moral objection at all, you must understand. It’s just… well, it’s so boring even Takeshi Kitano can’t revive it. Izo gives gratuitous violence a bad name.
A change of pace for prolific weirdo maestro Takashi Miike, Izo seems to have been embraced by his fanboys and pretty much ignored by everyone else. It’s not hard to see why. Plotless yet complicated, pacy yet unending, shallow yet incomprehensible and artlessly artsy, it’s a thoroughly unpleasant experience in every way except the intended way: the one thing it isn’t is shocking.
The story opens with the main character, Okada Izo (personality vacuum Kazuya Nakayama) being crucified and disembowelled. He returns from the dead (this seems strangely familiar) to take revenge upon, well, pretty much everybody he meets. One of the movie’s potentially interesting elements is its total lack of time and place, as Izo appears from scene to scene in different locations and different eras, on some kind of endless loop probably supposed to represent his personal hell. And yeah, that’s about it: he stabs a lot of people with his sword, and sometimes just for a change he cuts them in half instead. For 128 minutes. Oh, and he has sex once or twice, but that’s not interesting either.
The only tangible vestige of plot involves a shady group of omniscient businessman types, headed by Takeshi Kitano, who sit about and ruminate on how Izo is coming after them, in spite of the fact that Izo doesn’t seem to have any plans whatsoever beyond killing whoever’s in front of him at any given moment. Kitano gives the most somnambulistic performance in a movie which has nothing but, and he’s a guy who’s usually able to chew the scenery without even moving.
I know, I know: everything in this movie is meant to be all symbolic and stuff. Am I missing something? Undoubtedly. Am I even remotely interested in finding out what? Nope.