Saturday, February 12, 2011

REVIEW: Cool Dimension

クール・ディメンション (Kûru dimenshon)

Released: 2006

Yoshikazu Ishii

Kenichi Endo
Yoko Mitsuya
Mitsuho Otani
Mika Shigeizumi

Running time: 75 min.

Reviewed by Marc Saint-Cyr

It’s hard to tell if the process of bringing "Cool Dimension" to the screen ever involved any good ideas that showed promise. The final product, however, can be quite easily classified as a sad, hopeless affair. Not only are its story ideas taken from other, much better films and TV shows, but their execution is clumsy, flat and often baffling.

The plot essentially consists of a cyberpunk-ified version of a "Charlie’s Angels" episode. Shiori (Yoko Mitsuya), Mika (Mitsuho Otani) and Junko (Mika Shigeizumi) are three sexy, leather-clad assassins who serve the mysterious Kurokawa (Kenichi Endo). They are given a new assignment to find and kill a man named Muraoka who has gone into hiding. To determine his location, Shiori goes undercover as a new journalist at a newspaper office and tries to get necessary information from a woman who meets with him on a regular basis. But along the way, she begins to question her loyalty to Kurokawa – just as Junko suddenly gives in to her darker nature and betrays her fellow agents. As she struggles to save Mika and herself, Shiori becomes steadily more aware of her troubled past and new yearning for freedom.

At a few points throughout "Cool Dimension," establishing shots are presented using animation – easily the most effective tactic the filmmakers used to hide the cheapness of the production. Seeing that made me wonder what the film would look like as a full-blown animé. Surely there would have been more room for fun, action and imagination while sparing the audience the pain inflicted by the pitiful special effects, bad acting and lame attempts at creating a hip style of filmmaking. This hypothetical alternate version would also ideally include a new script altogether, as there are several scenes that simply can’t be taken seriously and story strands that lead nowhere. Take, for example, the whole portion of the film that involves Shiori’s disguise as a journalist. Apart from a ridiculous scene in which she scares a celebrity into answering some interview questions just by sneaking up on him and a laughable attempt at inspiring suspense in a conspicuously edited hacking sequence, this segment provides a young, ambitious journalist who might turn into a somewhat interesting character for the audience to follow. Yet once the newspaper subplot serves its purpose, it is abandoned with remarkably little tact. The journalist, who expressed some signs of puppy dog affection towards Shiori, is never seen again. He never makes any real progress with the elusive killer, and might as well have never existed. There are even worse examples of this careless mentality, perhaps none more abrupt or bad than the out-of-nowhere sex scene that occurs around the halfway point between two characters who don’t appear anywhere else in the film. Perhaps if more such scenes had been in the film, it would have been easier to buy as some quick, soft-core product instead of the wannabe action thriller it tries so hard to be.

Or perhaps "Cool Dimension" would have been easier to get on board with if its attitude was a little more tongue-in-cheek or its heroines a little more charismatic. But instead, Kurokawa and his girls (who he adopted when they were children) come across as a dull, mirthless and creepy bunch. When they aren’t out tracking down their target, they sit assembled in unsettling calm in their dark, prison-like hideaway – at one point at a table with hands joined, séance-like; at one point all huddled together on a couch, staring at a TV screen. A little more entertaining to watch is Junko’s rebellious breakdown, which seems to be fuelled simply by her desire to kill. That desire is broadcasted with all the subtlety of a brick to the head when the crazed Junko kills a small dog for the hell of it – the cheapest manipulative trick in the book. Needless to say, there is no logical reason suggested for her treachery, nor is there any evocation of genuine emotion when she faces off against her former friends. But then again, why should there be? Your emotions can only go so far when you’ve got cardboard cutouts instead of actual characters to work with.

To be fair, there are a scant few things one can appreciate in "Cool Dimension." The fight sequences are actually well done, and the tight leather outfits worn by the three female leads are rather fetching. But there’s little if anything else to salvage from this unfortunate, uninspired doodle – except probably relief from its mercifully slight running time.

Read more by Marc Saint-Cyr at his blog

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