Those of you who are familiar with Takashi Miike's typical fare will be surprised by how restrained this yakuza saga is, in comparison to the frenetic, ultra-violent & surreal Dead Or Alive trilogy, Ichi The Killer or the recent Gozu. This one takes a fair bit of time to get going and could have benefited with a bit of pruning, but it's to Miike's credit that it never becomes tedious. Although the pace is slow by Miike's standards, it at least gives us time to get properly acquainted with the characters. It can be confusing at first as we try to figure out which characters are affiliated with which gangs, but the director leaves us enough breathing space to make sense of what's going on before the sh*t really hits the fan in the final hour of the film. Agitator was Miike's fourth film of 2001, filmed in between Ichi The Killer & Happiness Of The Katakuris. It doesn't compare to the demented genius of either film, of course, and is not recommended to anyone seeking the usual insanity this director's name promises. In fact, the closest this movie comes to Miike's usual sick black humour is a scene where some gangsters terrorise a nightclub: the ringleader humiliates one of the clubgirls by repeatedly ramming a microphone up her bottom (shades of Visitor Q). Unsurprisingly, this character is played by Miike himself. In conclusion, this is a slow-burning, but engrossing gangster flick if you're in the mood. It's a good example of Miike's diversity & range (amazing that a film as carefully constructed and intricately plotted as this can be knocked out so quickly), but is probably best left to dedicated fans of this unique director.
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