Friday, July 18, 2008

REVIEW: Tokyo Gore Police - Yoshihiro Nishimura (2008)

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

Over the last few years, there has been a growing trend in Japanese cinema, as well as other Asian film industries, to create films with a certain international audience in mind. While the trend for overseas consumption has existed since Kurosawa, it has always been one of artistic integrity, creating films that would be popular with the high brow, art house crowd. This new trend, however, is to create genre films that will attract the obsessive fan boy (or girl). Takashi Miike was one of the forerunners of this new movement, after the success of films like Audition and Dead or Alive. Tokyo Shock and Fever Dreams recently began producing Japanese films aimed specifically at Western audiences, films that have little impact in their native country. The first of these was the bloody, tongue-in-cheek revenge tale The Machine Girl. The follow-up, another revenge pic, Tokyo Gore Police, takes the splatter from The Machine Girl and blends it with social commentary, producing one of the most surreal, subversive, blood baths ever released!

It’s sometime in the near future, and Japan ’s police force has been transformed into a corporation. Eihi Shiina of Audition fame (easily one of the most recognizable Japanese actresses for western fans) plays Ruka, a cop who specializes in hunting down and killing ‘engineers’, mutants who grow biological weaponry out of any wound or injury! The only way to kill them is to remove a key-like tumor that is found somewhere in their body. While the initial plot could be played for laughs, director and co-screenwriter Yoshihiro Nishimura, the special effects mastermind behind The Machine Girl, as well as most of Sion Sono’s films, plays it dead serious. He adapts his short film Anatomnia Extinction into a Japanese hybrid of Robocop, Blade runner and Videodrome. But to say it is merely an amalgamation of films come and gone wouldn’t do it justice. With help from co-screen writer Kengo Kaji of Uzumaki fame, they drive much of the films social commentary and satire with Verhoven inspired commercials, some directed by none other than The Machine Girl director Noboru Iguchi. There is no wink or nod to the audience in this film. Ruka is tortured by the suicide of her mother and the murder of her father, who was a just and righteous police officer opposed to the corporatization of the police force. Ruka pursues his killer with relentless focus, epitomizing the alienation of the Japanese citizen, whose only connection to others is through violence.

While the film has obvious western influences and is primarily aimed at a Western audience, it remains uniquely Japanese. Nishimura injects an Edogawa Rampo-esqe subversiveness to the film, from the bizarre, urinating, living chair take on The Human Chair to the strange, sadomasochistic perversions of the head engineer, known simply as the Key Man. And while there are enough film references to keep putting smiles on even the most jaded fan boys or girls, and great action choreography by Tak Sakaguchi, what could have been a typical psychedelic splatterfest turns into a brilliant, anarchistic tale of the corporatization of the modern urban landscape, pushing the very limits of what is deemed acceptable for celluloid. Penis guns, acid squirting breasts, living chain saw arms and real life maggot consumption are just a few of the delights awaiting the viewer. Verhoven may have pushed the limits of American cinema when he received his X-rating for Robocop, but Nishimura pushes that envelope through the roof, giving every fan boy and girl in the Western hemisphere more than they could possibly ask for. A film that not only fills the screen with the most original blood soaked mayhem you have possibly ever seen, but also one that has a heart and a brain.

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog.

No comments: