Reiji (Ikuta Tôma) is possibly the more helpless member of the Japanese Police force; the full-on opening of the movie with a naked Reiji, covered only with a fig-leave-sized piece of newspaper and strapped to the hood of a car driven at top speed, leaves no doubts about the protagonist’s ineptitude and the silly tone of the film. Fast-rewind to few days before, and we see policeman Reiji in action. His actions are driven by righteousness but his clumsiness ends up giving no other choices to his superiors than to fire him, after his attempt to arrest an “untouchable” city councilor.
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But – thinking again – who better than an incompetent loser can infiltrate the Yakuza without arising suspicions and carry on a potentially suicide mission without even realising? Following this train of thoughts, Reiji’s superiors decide to recycle him as a mole in the heinous Sukiya-kai yakuza clan, suspected of plotting with Russian mafia to smuggle a big shipment of MDMA into Japan. After a series of initiation tests, including the aforementioned naked stunt on the car, Reiji is thrown to the deep end, but not before learning the mole’s rules from a song (The Mole Song) chorally performed by the Policemen, and one of the recurrent funny gags of the movie.
Dressed up for the part, Reiji infiltrates the gang and through a series of misunderstandings and clumsy gags, he ends up passing an induction ceremony and being well received. In no time he becomes good friend with the no.2 in command, Crazy Papillon (Shinichi Tsutsumi) a lover of butterflies and all things funny (hence a propensity for Reiji). Papillon, like our heroic mole, hates drugs and is on a mission to rid the world of it. Together, they will have to confront rival yakuzas, led by glitter-toothed Nekozawa (Takashi Okamura) and his best hitman, the leopard-skin-tattooed Kenta Kurokawa (Yusuke Kamiji). Moreover, on a parallel plot, Reiji harbors a dark secret that is tormenting him; he is a virgin and is determined to loose his status only with his love interest, the beloved colleague, policewoman Junna (Riisa Naka).
Director Takashi Miike is on his familiar ground of manga adaptation, here aiming a notch higher, considering that “The Mole Song – Undercover Agent Reiji” (Mogura no uta) by Noboru Takahashi, the serial the film is based on, is an extremely popular one (over 4 million readers). Moreover, its spanning over 35 volumes makes the adaptation a very hard task as lack of syntheses is often the downfall of these kind of operations. However, Kankuro Kudo’s script manages to succeed in making a reasonable order in the madness of the story and keep it entertaining until the end.
Following the typical manga aesthetics, the film is garish, flamboyant and over the top camp; the action is relentless and adrenaline-fueled, one set-piece after another and the slapstick gags and jokes are genuinely silly-and-hilarious. “The Mole Song” doesn’t try to be clever and audiences looking for hidden meanings and profound cogitations about the underworld will have to look somewhere else for that.
In fact, “The Mole Song” is one of those unashamedly entertaining comedies, to be taken for what it is. A good thing that comes with the lightness of the plot is that it leaves mind-space for a full enjoyment of the other aspects of the movie, such as the bold and eclectic production design, the stunning hairdos and costumes (Papillon’s suits are to die for) the yakuza’s rituals, the lysergic color scheme and, not last, a barrage of silly gags.
A rather melodramatic spotlight that quotes many yakuza movies, is on the brotherhood of blood between Reiji and Papillon; their bromance is pivotal and the two actors are rather complementary. The suave and moody Shinichi Tsutsumi is perfect partner to Ikuta Tôma’s histrionic performance. Rarely off screen, he has the movie on his shoulders and yet you are never tired of him; his face, pliable like plasticine, stretches into those hyperbolic expressions that mangas are peppered with. He is more Reiji than Reiji.
One little fault is that “The Mole Song” could have been shortened a bit here and there in the editing phase, as it risks to lose some steam towards the end, just before being resuscitated with a bang, in a bombastic showdown finale on the waterfront. However, in the end, it still is an engaging and well directed action comedy, a treat for the eyes and a proud addition to the sometimes hit-and-miss light entertainment section of prolific director Takashi Miike.