In “Izo,” Japan goremaster Takashi Miike (“Audition,” “Gozu”) retreats into a teen fantasy world crammed with apocalyptic philosophy, Japanese swordsmen and even a few gods. Miike has developed a fest following who flock to his quickly made, hell-raising B-movies (this is the second this year, following the humorous “Zebraman”), but with current entry he pushes his luck. Unstructured tale of a samurai warrior back from the dead to wreak unmotivated slaughter through the ages becomes repetitive and, despite an ironic cameo by actor-director Takeshi Beat Kitano, boring. Its portentous musings on death and existence may capture the fancy of videogame addicts and manga fans.
Almost immediately after a graphic birth scene, the violent samurai Izo (Kazuya Nakayama) is crucified, but he seems unable to die under torture. He does get angry. His thirst for revenge finds him reincarnated in bodies like that of a Japanese soldier fighting in World War II and a restless contemporary demon in human form compelled to slaughter everyone in his path.
The fights are fast and furious, the outcomes a foregone conclusion, and the victims fall with the emotional impact of figures in a vidgame. The only time Izo hesitates is before wiping out a school of children in a scene that unfortunately parodies the recent real-life tragedy in Russia.
Representing man without a soul, Izo eventually focuses his anarchic rage on a mysterious figure who may be the emperor or even God himself.
Film’s most recognizable characters are the members of the Japanese government, led by cool cucumber Beat Takeshi, who plot world domination when they’re not worrying about Izo. Set up as his ultimate nemeses, they at least tough it out to the frenzied finale.
Performances are perfunctory, and lead actor Nakayama is so heavily made up that his screams and grimaces seem part of his painted mask.
Editor Yasushi Shimamura throws in everything from a montage of war footage that includes the A-bomb exploding to zombie soldiers and a guitar player who halts the nonstop action to wail out a long, heartfelt pop song.