A plot that doesn’t make sense doesn’t deter Gozu from being thoroughly entertaining, though it’s still nonsensical and rather disturbing.
Gozu is… well, like a lot of director Takashi Miike’s movies like Ichi The Killer and Audition, kind of hard to put into words what exactly it is. Part gangster flick and really sick horror, the film starts off with Minami, a nervous but loyal member of the Azamawari crew, getting tasked to off his “brother” Ozaki, whose eccentricities have been getting out of hand recently—most notably his belief that a chihuahua he keeps seeing is actually … a Yakuza attack dog.
Raising your eyebrows in bewilderment already? Folks, this is only the first 15 minutes of the show. What follows is Minami’s Alice in Wonderland-type journey through Nagoya, where he loses Ozaki’s body and subsequently encounters the city’s strange denizens, including a peculiar set of siblings who run the local inn, the resident gang’s go-to guy with a skin condition and something with the body of a man and the head of a cow.
Overly-analytical armchair film critics will have a field day with Gozu, trying to evaluate it and comprehend what sort of metaphors Miike’s using to get his message across. There’s the other, less artsy fartsy school of thought, however, that says he’s throwing all this ridiculous stuff in for the fun of it, because his main purpose isn’t to shoot a film that makes sense, but simply to make a technically astounding movie.
Applying that approach, Gozu is certainly an interesting piece of cinema. The visuals are stunning, specifically the skyline of the city, as well as any scene shot outdoors by cinematographer Kazunari Tanaka. Miike also does a fantastic job of setting the mood with just the right hues; the unbelievably warped sex scene at the end shifts perfectly along with each particular tone.
The acting’s pretty standard fair, with the exception of Shô Aikawa as Ozaki who, even in his brief screen time, stands out for his deadly serious, yet over-the-top comedic timing. In fact, most of the show’s funniest moments are darkly twisted, including Ozaki’s vicious assassination of the “attack dog” and a death scene that can be described only as one of the most original, painful and embarrassing that we’ve ever seen.
Gozu’s not for everyone. Truth be told, if you’re looking for some semblance of an actual story, don’t even bother. But if you just want to enjoy brief moments of sick humor and some gorgeous cinematic scenery, you’ve come to the right place. Strictly for the initiated.