Insanely prolific Japanese cult director Takashi Miike once said in an interview, "A movie is worthwhile if it has a single incredible shot," and he's apparently dedicated his filmography to testing that theory. Over the course of 60-odd features in the past 15 years, Miike has served up some of the most dumbfounding images in contemporary cinema, treating the human body like modeling clay in the hands of a preadolescent sociopath. But when he's not ripping people apart, Miike tends to relax his grip and go a-wandering. In between the gasp-inducing sexual perversity and giddy bloodletting, his films dwell—sometimes interminably—on unspectacular people sitting around unexceptional rooms and saying little.
Miike makes good use of his homeland, though, as in his recent festival-circuit favorite Gozu. In the film, two yakuza leave the city and head to Nagoya, a bizarre, run-down tourist trap that could have been pulled directly from a David Lynch or Coen brothers film, and the kind of modernized exurbia that rarely appears in widely distributed Japanese films. Well-meaning gunman Hideki Sone heads to Nagoya on an assignment to kill his partner Sho Aikawa, but after a series of accidents, the two hoods wind up stalking each other through a nightmare world populated by milk-obsessed hicks. ("It's complimentary," the natives say when offering a glass.) The black comic surrealism of Gozu's relatively sedate middle hundred minutes makes a sturdy enough bridge from the film's funny opening 10 and its manic final 20, though given how remarkable those bookends are, audiences can rightfully complain about Miike's unsteady pace.
Still, it's unlikely that anyone in those audiences will have seen setpieces as wild as the ones that wrap up Gozu. Through all the willful weirdness, the film has a hopeful point to make about male friendship (a common Miike theme best explored in his gorgeous Dead Or Alive 2: Birds), and how the fluidity of gender might allow violent men to be reborn as lovers. Gozu isn't the masterpiece Miike may one day make, but it adds a handful of scenes to his highlight reel. Someday, someone may edit that reel into a cohesive documentary, and it'll be Miike's crowning achievement.