Saturday, February 14, 2009

Tokyo Gore Police ** 1/2

Tôkyô zankoku keisatsu
Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura
Japan, 2008, 109 minutes

"The Japanese have singlehandedly fine tuned the art of making freakishly bizarre cult movies that defy logic." - General Disdain,
On the recommendation of my ex-GF Elisa (who has impeccable good taste - except when it comes to men like me), I added this to my NetFlix queue. Here's the cartoonish plot summary from IMDB: "Set in a future-world vision of Tokyo where the police have been privatized and bitter self-mutilation is so casual that advertising is often specially geared to the "cutter" demographic, this is the story of samurai-sword-wielding Ruka and her mission to avenge her father's assassination. Ruka is a cop from a squad who's mission is to destroy homicidal mutant humans known as "engineers" possessing the ability to transform any injury to a weapon in and of itself."

Now when she suggested it, El Lisa probably was thinking back to the days when we would laugh out loud watching similarly themed Asian gorefests like Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky and, to be sure, I would recommend it as a great background flick at a large party. If you want gore, look no more. But these days I'm past being shocked by gross-out gore films of this ilk. I've seen Riki-O, Peter Jackson's Dead Alive, Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo, the Iron Man and even more recent vintages of the genre such as Robert Rodriguez' Planet Terror. I've been there, done that, and I'm sated thank-you.

Not that there isn't much to recommend in Tokyo Gore Police. This movie is stylishly directed, beautifully shot, smartly edited, and stars Eihi Shiina (the creepy acupuncturist from Takashi Miike's Audition, a former Japan Chanel model and a captivating presence of whom director Yoshihiro Nishimura has said, "She is the only actress in the world who can look so beautiful just standing in the midst of a gushing spray of blood" - which is high praise, indeed), but at 11 minutes shy of two hours it overstays its welcome; it should have ended after about 70 minutes. The special effects and make-up people had too much say in the final product. (OK, I just Googled the director's name and found out - surprise! - his background is in make-up and special effects!) If you've seen one decapitated torso gushing geysers of blood, you've pretty much seen 'em all and don't need to see the trick repeated a half dozen more times. We get it: gross (i.e., cool), right?

To see Audition's captivatingly strange Eihi Shiina... must also watch lots of this

Director Yoshishiro Nishimura makes a number of nods to Western films and directors (especially Lynch and Dali), from Darryl Hannah's kicking/screaming death scene in Bladerunner to repeated references to Paul Verhoeven's fake commercials in Starship Troopers. Of the latter, I loved the hari-kari knife ads and the "Wrist Cutter G" ad targeting trend-conscious teenage schoolgirls:

That said, Tokyo Gore Police isn't for everyone, as its gore borders on the pornographic. So if the sight of a genetically mutated penis shooting out of a guy's pants like a bloody, javelin-sized sheesh kabob sounds a little too extreme, this one's not for you (having already seen Tetsuo and Urotsukidôji: Legend of the Overfiend, I merely yawned and fetched a beer; the Japanese - like many male porn stars - love the penis-as-weapon motif). As critic General Disdain observed "This blood infused nod to a George Orwellian future proves [the Japanese are] still on a plane of existence few can think of ascending to." Or would want to! In fact, right after seeing this I read The Onion spoof article "Japan Pledges To Halt Production Of Weirdo Porn That Makes People Puke" and I thought, that's about right as far as the extreme Japanese film mindset goes!


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