The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji is the latest offering from Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer, 13 Assassins, and about 90 other titles), Japan's enfant terrible director. Co-presented by the New York Asian Film Festival, it will be the opening film of this year's JAPAN CUTS: The New York Festival of Contemporary Japanese Cinema.
Reiji Kikukawa (Toma Ikuta, The Brain Man) is a conscientious cop but totally ineffectual. This is not surprising since he graduated with the lowest score in police academy history. However, his superiors come to believe that his ineptness makes him perfect as an undercover agent, a.k.a., a mole. His assignment: get the goods on and bring down the Sukiya-kai, Japan's most nefarious criminal organization.
Reiji receives training from Kazumi Akagiri and some other police officers, part of which consists of a series of tests. After he finally passes, his instructors sing "The Mole Song" (yes, there actually is a song!). From it Reiji learns the "Rules of a Mole": never reveal your identity, beware of female pheromones, etc.
Reiji begins his assignment by befriending Masaya Hiura, a.k.a. "Crazy Papillon" (Shinichi Tsutsumi, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?). Papillon is the boss of an illegal casino run by the Akogi-gumi, an arm of Sukiya-kai. He's also fond of butterflies and detests drugs. The bond between the two of them becomes stronger when they come in conflict with Issei Nekozawa (Takashi Okamura, The Great Yokai War).
Bald and with diamond teeth, Nekozawa is a boss of the Hachinosu-kai, the biggest yakuza clan in Kansai. A fragile peaceful co-existence between it and the Sukiya-kai is on the verge of ending because of the ambitions of Aiko, the new director and 5th generation boss of Hachinosu-kai.
Reiji's assignment to penetrate the Sukiya-kai, which has its own perils, is thus further endangered by the threat of an all out war between rival yakuza gangs. The situation could well be more than this mole is able to handle, even if he is "the ultimate non-existent undercover agent"!
The film is a combination of outrageous comedy, all-out action and garish costumes. For me, at 130 minutes, it's a tad on the long side. Some of the fight scenes, for example, might have been trimmed a bit. It's somewhat lesser Miike, but certainly still quite enjoyable.
AsianCineFest Rating: 3 out of 4 stars, recommended. It may not be a great film, but it's a good one and definitely entertaining.
Oh, be sure to stay though the credits for the film's coda.
The full schedule for NYAFF 2014 can be found here; the Japan Cuts schedule, here.