Promising a strong dose of cinematic time-shifting and wildly grotesque satire in its first reel, in which a crazy Japanese family “accidentally” takes a restaurant hostage, Akira Kawai’s sophomore pic, “Ikka,” settles down into much more conventional directions, and with greatly diminishing returns. Although a suitable program filler for fests, this caper won’t travel far theatrically.
In its dizzying early section, filmintercuts the stressful reunion of the Ohta family with a pizza delivery man’s fateful encounter with the yakuza and one of its brutalized victims. As the story unfolds, said pizza guy is actually the Ohta patriarch, Shinichiro (Jun Kunimura) as a younger man; in the aftermath of his yakuza faceoff, he adopts the victim’s son, Isamu (Kouichiro Nishi) and sets up a business that helps those in trouble drop safely out of sight, using the pizza shop as a cover.
Disorienting but dynamic script by Kawai and co-writer Go Aoki has Shinichiro and wife Rumiko (Yoko Akino) having kept the truth of father’s business from both Isamu and hothead older brother Keisuke (Masaki Miura) — until the present day, that is, when one bad move by restaurant staff reveals dear old dad has a weapons factory hidden under his coat. These tools of his secret trade now come in handy as the panicked Ohtas hold the restaurant hostage.
Kawai doesn’t know where to take things from there, however, and “Ikka” ends up resembling a locked-in stage play for most of its brief remaining running time. The director allows his cast to overplay, even by the liberal standards of the crazy family genre, but without the rewards of uproarious comedy. The only perf played at recognizably human volume is Nishi’s Isamu, who’s trying to break free of his family’s smothering grip by being a filmmaker — an obvious Kawai alter ego.
The production package flirts with outright ugliness that serves no aesthetic purpose, with low-light lensing on fast film producing an extremely coarse bigscreen image.