Friday, June 20, 2008

REVIEW: The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers - Koji Kawano (2007)

Reviewed by Matthew Hardstaff

I swam competitively in high school, and those six amazing years left in their wake fond memories of Speedos, shaving parties and intra-provincial bus trips. Having always had a slight obsession with film, I was perpetually in search of a movie that captured the same passion and insanity that those six years brought me, but besides an episode or two of Ready or Not, I’ve been pretty much unsuccessful in my search, until now.

Koji Kawano, the director of the dramatic lesbian manga adaptation Love my Life, as well as several J-sploitation films, has finally made my dream come true, with the aptly titled Joshikyôei hanrangun aka Dead Pool aka The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers (Ironically enough, one of the teams I swam for was called The Rebels). The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers revolves around Aki, played by the popular AV idol Sasa Handa, a new student at a high school which is currently undergoing routine vaccines to eradicate a virus spreading throughout the school. Aki, who has a phobia of water, quickly befriends one of the members of the school’s swim team, played by Yuria Hidaka, another popular AV idol. During a brief shower scene, the two girls discover that not only do they have identical moles on their necks, but also identical birth marks on their breasts! After the overly aggressive swim coach, who is perpetually wearing a Speedo and carrying a Kendo training sword, boots one of the girls from the team, Aki is reluctantly convinced to take her place. The big competition is coming up, and they need a replacement. Unfortunately, the vaccine used to eradicate the virus is in fact turning the students and teachers of the school into mindless, bloodthirsty zombies! Lucky for the swim team, something in the pool seems to stop the vaccine’s effects. Also, lucky for the swim team is that Aki was formerly trained as an aquatic terrorist by a mad scientist who subjected her to his sexual whims using a mind controlling flute! Pretty soon sex, violence and swimming ensue.

From my understanding, and I could be entirely wrong, this is the first time Koji Kawano has ventured into such violent territory, perhaps to cash in on such recent popular films The Machine Girl, Suicide Club, Karaoke Terror and the soon to be released Tokyo Gore Police. However, despite the fact that he fills the screen with plenty of blood and guts, his lofty ideas are obviously limited by the films low budget: nonetheless, what he lacks in money, he makes up for in sex! The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers (I prefer this name to the far lesser Dead Pool) plays out as a Japanese ode to Joe D’Amato, although the soft core sex scenes featuring Sasa Handa, her swimming companion Yuria Hidaka and the mad scientist Sakae Yamazaki do in fact fulfill a narrative link that D’Amato usually lacked. The psychedelic 70’s sound track is also replaced with a wonderful 80’s workout theme. In spite its shortcomings, it manages to overcome the bad special effects, terrible fight choreography and repetitive use of the same few bloody limbs. The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers, while not in the class of The Machine Girl, a film that I enjoyed thoroughly, is still definitely enjoyable and entertaining, especially if you like either competitive swimming or a little soft core porn with your cheap blood and guts. If you enjoy something like Erotic Nights of the Living Dead, then this movie is for you! It is everything I wanted my swimming experience to be and so much more.

Read more by Matthew Hardstaff at his blog.

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